The Islamic State has released 43 Assyrian Christians, the last in a group of hostages captured almost exactly one year ago.
"No hostages remain and any reports quoting other figures to the contrary are unsubstantiated," the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (ACERO) said today.
"ACERO wishes to extend its unreserved thanks to all those supporters, both institutional and individual, who have stood with the Assyrians of Syria in this arduous 12-month period," a statement from the organisation added.
Christian Today reports that the Islamic State has been slowly releasing the roughly 200 hostages which were taken from the Khabour River valley on February 23, 2015. The 43 recently released hostages are the last of those taken captive from the region.
According to an anonymous Assyrian source who spoke to Newsweek, the Islamic State received money in exchange for the release of the captives, although the amount was not confirmed.
The militants initially demanded an exorbitant amount of ransom money--$23 million--for the release of the captives. The Assyrian community was unable to meet this demand, and so the militants lowered the amount to between $12 and $14 million.
Although the hostages have been released, there is much still to be done.
"We now begin to focus on re-building lives, and we start this by pressuring the United Nations to recognize the ongoing genocide taking place against these minorities who are tired of running,” stated the human rights group, A Demand for Action (ADFA).
"We must take action to bring awareness to what is really taking place in the Middle East. After the EU passed the resolution to recognize the atrocities taking place as genocide, it's now up to the United Nations turn to show true leadership and answer the calls and cries of all those whom have been affected and continue to be affected. The persecution of minorities must end."
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Publication date: February 22, 2016