Christians in Syria form militia to fight IS

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Beirut, Feb 28: Christians, threatened by Islamic State (IS) jihadis in Syria, have organised themselves into a militia to fight the militants, with the help of the Kurdish forces, according to a media report.

The Syrian Military Council (MFS) is the main Christian rebel faction in the al-Hasakah province in north-east Syria, composed of three battalions of 300 to 400 fighters each, EFE reported on Friday, citing one of the Christian rebel commanders, Kino Gabriel.

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Since its launch in January 2013, MFS forces have battled pro-regime troops and the Al-Nusra Front - a subsidiary of the Al Qaeda in Syria - and are now fighting the IS.

Gabriel said there were other Christian armed groups in the Syrian provinces of Hama and Idleb, but explained that they were not very large.

It is uncommon to find such Christian militias in Syria, where Christians account for 9 percent of the population.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict almost four years ago, the Christian community has been predominantly supportive of President Bashar al-Assad's regime and opposed to the armed opposition dominated by Sunni rebels.

Most members of the MFS are Assyrian Christians, an ethnic group mainly living in the al-Hasakah province, although Gabriel stressed that there were also some Kurds and Arabs in the region.

At least 90 Syrian Christians of the Assyrian minority were confirmed kidnapped by the IS militants from two Assyrian towns in northern Syria, media reported, citing the monitoring group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Tuesday.

According to figures given by the Christian rebel commander, the number of Assyrians held hostage by the militants range from 250 to 400, which would make it the biggest case of mass kidnapping of Christians by the militants and the second-largest of any minority group, after the capture of 400 to 1,000 Yazidis in Iraq last August.

According to Gabriel, the kidnapping of Assyrians may have been in retaliation to several clashes and attacks launched by the Christian militia against the IS near the Khabur river.

"Our main problem now is the inability to cross the Khabur river to attack them (the militants)," said the Christian militia leader.

Gabriel is confident that the Kurds and the MFS can defeat the IS: "We will be able to overcome our enemy."

According to the Christian group, it is essential to receive military support from the international community, as well as obtaining heavy weaponry, to emerge victorious in the war against the IS.

IANS

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