The United States has condemned militants of the radical Islamist group Islamic State (IS) "in the strongest possible terms" for attacking Assyrian Christian villages in Syria and abducting civilians "including women, children, priests, and the elderly."
In a statement on February 24, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said IS'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."
She spoke after activists said IS militants abducted dozens of people from villages they raided in northeastern Syria at dawn on February 23.
"We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive yesterday and of all those held" by Islamic State militants, Psaki said.
Syriac National Council of Syria head Bassam Ishak said on February 24 that the group, which represents several NGOs inside and outside the country, had "verified at least 150 people who have been abducted."
Karam Dole, a member of the political bureau of the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Syria Hasakah, told RFE/RL that IS militants had abducted 13 women, children, and elderly men after raiding the village of Tel Hormuz at dawn.
He said 70 to 90 people were unable to escape Tel Shamiram, another village overrun by the militants early on February 23, and were considered missing.
Dola said residents of more than 30 villages on the Khabur river had fled to Hasakah, a city mainly held by Kurds.
Syrian Kurdish militia launched two offensives against the militants in northeast Syria on February 22, aided by U.S.-led air strikes.