SYRIA, (BP) — The Islamic State (formerly ISIS) is claiming responsibility for two attacks on Christians in northeast Syria that killed nine and wounded 71, as Christians continue to flee villages just outside a proposed safe zone at the Syria-Turkey border.
An Armenian priest and his father were killed and a deacon was wounded in a car bomb attack as they drove from Qamishli in northeast Syria Monday (Nov. 11), persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) and others reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack and obtained video footage, ICC said.
“Two Christian priests were killed today; ISIS shot them down,” ICC quoted a headline in the ISIS official Amaq news outlet.
Seven died and 70 were wounded in three car bomb explosions Monday near the Chaldean church in Qamishli, with ISIS also claiming responsibility, according to ICC and Asia News.
“Today’s violence in northern Syria and the targeting of Armenian leadership is a tragedy that deeply wounds the region’s entire Christian community,” Claire Evans, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, said Monday in a press release.
“Christians have long warned that ISIS will seek every opportunity to continue its genocide against religious minorities,” Evans said. “Meanwhile, Turkey’s actions in the area have generated an environment of instability. Armenian Christians, whose ancestors were killed in Turkey’s genocide, find themselves caught between violent actors across all of Syria.”
Hovsep Petoyan, pastor of the Armenian Catholic Community of Qamishli, and his father Abraham Petoyan were murdered in the car bomb as they traveled to Deir ez-Zor, ICC said, quoting reports from the Armenian Press.
Monday’s car bombs are considered a clear signal that ISIS again is targeting Christians after the U.S. declared in March that ISIS was defeated in the region. The attacks are also considered retaliation for the October killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Concurrently, Syrian Christians continue to flee villages throughout the Tal Tamir/Khabour area near the proposed safe zone, ICC said, that Turkey is using to justify its invasion. Of 33 Christian villages in the region, only 18 remain populated and only with a handful of families, ICC said.
In Tal Cedaya village alone, for example, 20 Christian families have evacuated, leaving just one Christian family there, ICC said.
“We must keep the Christian community of Syria in our prayers,” Evans said, “and urge for an end to this senseless conflict.”
The ISIS attacks fall a month after Turkish forces launched a bombing campaign in the region after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.