SHAFAQNA – Muslims who helped Christian residents of Al-Qaryatain escape from the city were reportedly murdered by a group of armed men who attacked their hiding place, based on new reports that surfaced recently.
After Syrian troops were able to retake Al-Qaryatain from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), more information have emerged recently on the fate of the Christian and Muslim residents in the said city. In October, Muslim residents began helping Christians flee to Homs in small groups, prioritizing the unmarried Christian girls because of rumors that ISIS leaders wanted to take them as their wives, according toAgenzia Fides.
In December, a group of 50 armed men attacked a farm being used by Christian families as a “logistic base.” At that time, six Muslims who helped organize fleeing Christians’ journey to Homs were present. They, along with five Christians, were killed in the said raid. The farm was located in an area that was not controlled by either ISIS or the Syrian army.
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced about the killing of 21 Christians in Al-Qaryatain during the jihadist group’s rule. Syrian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II told BBC in an interview that three women were included among the murdered Christians.
Aphrem also said the Christians died under different circumstances, with some killed for violating the terms of their “dhimmi contracts.” Some also died while attempting to escape from Al-Qaryatain.
In addition, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch said there are still five Christians who are missing and are now presumed to be dead.
However, several sources cited by Agenzia Fides deny international reports citing Aphrem’s statement about the 21 Christians who were killed by ISIS for refusing to convert to Islam.
ISIS captured the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatain in August 2015 and kidnapped hundreds of residents for ransom. In recent weeks, the jihadists suffered significant losses to Syrian forces, including the loss of the ancient city of Palmyra and of Al-Qaryatain. The events in the last eight months have left the town of Al-Qaryatain in utter ruins, including an ancient Catholic monastery.