The terrorist group Islamic State (IS) has previously destroyed cultural heritage sites in Iraq - now they have destroyed a church in northern Syria on Easter Sunday.
IS has previously published propaganda films of the destruction of museums in Mosul, where men with sledgehammers smashed statues of gods from ancient Assyria. Now a church reportedly have been blown up or partially destroyed in the area Tel Tamr, the group Assyrian Network for Human Rights reports.
The St. Mary's Church in Tel Nasri, was blown up by ISIS on Sunday, when Kurdish and Assyrian troops moved into the village, which has been under IS control since March 7.
Afram Yakoub, president of the Assyrian Federation in Sweden, confirms the information.
- It is unclear if the whole church was destroyed. There is now sporadic fighting in the area, he says.
He has been in the St. Mary's Church in 2007.
Tel Nasri is the last village before reaching the main city Tel Tamr, which IS has not yet managed to occupy.
- IS has shown that they really would love to take over Tel Tamr, because it is a strategic point. The site includes the road to Aleppo, says Yakoub.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory Group for Human Rights (Sohr) smoke could be seen across Tel Nasri just after the roar of an explosion.
According Sohr, IS has placed mines across the village to halt the advancing troops who had come to liberate the village.
It was in late February that IS swept in and took a number of villages in the area populated by Assyrian Christians. Now, all civilians have been evacuated.
It is still unknown what has happened with several captured Assyrians.
- They just released 23 people, mostly elderly. There are still two to three hundred people held captive. I do not think they will be released. The children will be placed in Muslim families to grow up as Muslims, and women are kept as sex slaves, says Afram Yakoub from the Assyrian Federation.
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