IS frees 19 of 220 Assyrian Christians abducted in north-east Syria

The Islamic State (IS) has reportedly freed 19 of the 220 Assyrian Christians captured by it in north-eastern Syria, activists said.

London-based monitoring group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that an Assyrian commander had told it of the releases, reported the BBC.

Assyrian Christian officials said that the 16 men and three women released by the terror group returned safely to the Church of the Virgin Mary in the city of Hassakeh on Sunday.

The Assyrian Human Rights Network said that the captives had gained their release after a Sharia court asked them to pay an unspecified amount of money levied as a tax on non-Muslims.

The abductions had taken place shortly before dawn on 23 February, when IS militants stormed through 12 villages, located on the southern bank of the Khabur river, near the town of Tal Tamr.

Assyrian leaders and Sunni tribal sheikhs are trying to negotiate the release of the remaining captives, activists said.