BEIRUT: The Islamic State group has seized at least 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria, in the jihadists' first mass kidnapping of Christians in the war-torn country, a monitor said on Tuesday.
The abductions appeared to be in retaliation for a major Kurdish offensive aimed at recapturing nearby villages, and which has killed 132 jihadists in four days, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based monitor said IS kidnapped the Assyrians today after seizing two villages, Tal Shamiram and Tal Hermuz, in Hassakeh province from the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
The group had no immediate details on those kidnapped, including whether women and children were among them, or where they were being held.
"The jihadists attacked the two villages in retaliation against the Kurds, who four days ago launched a bid backed by the US-led coalition to reclaim villages around Tal Hamis, also in Hassakeh province," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
"The fighting around Tal Hamis has killed at least 132 jihadists in four days, and four YPG fighters today alone," he added.
"A fifth man, a Westerner who had travelled into Syria to fight alongside the YPG, was also killed."
There were just 30,000 Assyrians in Syria before the country's conflict erupted in March 2011, with most of them living throughout Hassakeh province.
They represent a tiny percentage of the country's overall pre-war Christian population, which numbered around 1.2 million people.