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Kurdish Fighters Seize Key Islamic State Stronghold in Syria

Kurds Celebrate Ouster of Islamic State From Tal Hamis
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Kurdish fighters say they have "liberated" a northeastern Syrian town that has been a key stronghold of Islamic State militants.

A spokesperson for the People's Protection Units, or YPG, confirmed to VOA that the Kurdish fighters had seized the city of Tal Hamis, in Hassakeh province.

“This victory is a huge blow for IS terrorists because they orchestrated their attacks against Qamishli and other Kurdish cities in Syria and Sinjar region in Iraq from this city," he told VOA's Kurdish service. "In this operation a significant number of local Arab forces also helped them because people came to realize that there is no future under this terrorist organization."

Map of Hassakeh province, Syria, showing Hassakeh and Qamishli
Map of Hassakeh province, Syria, showing Hassakeh and Qamishli

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 175 Islamic State militants were killed by Kurdish fighters and air strikes by the U.S. led coalition in recent days.

Meanwhile, VOA's Kurdish service reports that at least nine people were killed when Islamic State militants carried out a bombing of a church in Ghibsh village, near Tal Tamr. At least four people were abducted.

Earlier this week, Islamic State militants attacked 11 Assyrian Christian villages in the Tal Tamr area, where they reportedly took 220 people prisoner. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Director Rami Abdurrahman told VOA they have now been moved to the Abd al-Asiz mountains, where they are still in captivity.

Funding Islamic State Militant Groups
Funding Islamic State Militant Groups

The U.S. State Department this week called for the immediate release of the kidnapped Assyrian Christians.

"ISIL's latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, using an acronym for the group. "ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths, and the majority of its victims have been Muslims."

The Islamic State group has targeted religious minorities with kidnappings and killings during its spread across northern Iraq and Syria.