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ICC Note: A Syrian priest kidnapped by unknown militants in mid-July was released after more than five weeks in captivity. Another 22 Assyrian Christians who had been held by ISIS fighters since February were also released even as new media calling for ransom payments were published on social media. The incidents continue to demonstrate the great risks that Christians in the country face within the midst of a conflict now stretching into its fifth year.

08/19/2015 Syria (World Watch Monitor) Five weeks after Fr. Antoine Boutros and his driver were kidnapped on their way to Sunday mass in southern Syria’s Suweida province on July 12, the Catholic parish priest has been released.

Disclosure of the 50-year-old priest’s release on Aug. 15 came from the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III Laham, who gave no further details.

According to the Rome-based Zenit News Agency, the identity of Fr. Boutros’ kidnappers remains unknown, along with the fate of his driver. A rash of abductions occurred during July in the Suweida region, which is under the control of the Syrian army, but plagued by local brigands and a number of Islamist jihadi factions. Islamic State sources had not claimed responsibility for Fr. Boutros’ kidnapping.

Still unconfirmed are the fates of Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio and Syrian Catholic Fr. Jacques Mourad, abducted July 2013 and May 2015, respectively. Nor has credible evidence surfaced regarding Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, kidnapped more than two years ago.

Released after 6 months

Just four days before Fr. Boutros’s release, Islamic State (IS) militants released 22 elderly Assyrian Christian hostages, all abducted nearly six months ago from their villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria.

The captives, 14 of them women, were sent on a bus to a highway outside Hassaka city, according to an announcement Aug. 11 by Afram Yacoub, chairman of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden.

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