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ISIS gets millions in ransom for abducted Christians

| Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, 7:24 p.m.

The Islamic State group has collected millions of dollars in ransom for a group of Assyrian Christians it kidnapped in Syria a year ago, Christian officials and an opposition group said Monday, as the last of the 230 hostages were freed.

The release ended a yearlong saga for the Christians — many of them women and children — during which families had no news from their loved ones.

Younan Talia of the Assyrian Democratic Organization said that about 40 remaining captives were released early Monday and arrived in the northeastern town of Tal Tamr. He said the release came after mediation led by a top Assyrian priest in northern Syria.

The extremists captured the Assyrians, members of an ancient Christian sect, last February after overrunning several communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in northeastern Hassakeh province.

Kidnapping for ransom is a main source of income for the extremists, who have captured scores of journalists and aid workers in the past few years, releasing some for large sums of money and killing others. In November, ISIS said it killed a Norwegian and a Chinese captive after demanding ransom for their release two months earlier.

Talia said ISIS demanded a ransom of $18 million for the Assyrian Christians. He said the figure was lowered after negotiations. He said he did not know the final amount.

Osama Edward, director of the Stockholm-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, said 42 Christians, mostly young women and children, were released. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said 42 were released, including at least 17 women.

A Syrian Christian figure said the worldwide Assyrian community launched a campaign for the captives' release shortly after they were abducted.

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