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10 Assyrians released after 'negotiations'

The Islamic State has released 10 more Assyrians, from over 200 indigenous Christians it had snatched from their communities in north eastern Syria in February.

The civilians, five men and five women, were released Tuesday evening, the Assyrian Human Rights Network (AHRN) reported.

The released hostages, from Tel Shamiram, Tel Jazeera, Qabr Shamiya and Tel Fayda, are all said to be “in good health”, AHRN added.

On February 23, Islamic State (IS) jihadists overran 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur River in the northeastern Hasaka province. IS captured 253 in the initial attack and drove 3,000 Assyrians from their villages.

Since the beginning of March, at least 95 Assyrian hostages, mostly sick and elderly, have been released by IS in different groups. In October, it filmed the killing of three Assyrian hostages and threatened more if demands were not met.

The latest group of freed hostages comes as a result of ongoing negotiations, AHRN said, declining to disclose details on the nearly eight months’ negotiations process, citing “the gravity and sensitivity of the situation.”

AINA says IS still holds 158 hostages from the Khabur area in addition to 185 Assyrians IS captured in Qaryatain, in the western Syrian province of Homs, in early August.

Egypt army rebuilds church destroyed by Islamists

A Coptic Orthodox church destroyed by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in August 2013 has been rebuilt by the Egyptian army.

St Theodore's church in the Upper Egypt city of  Minya was destroyed by Islamist extremists after the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, was deposed from the Egyptian Presidency. In retaliation for their downfall the Muslim Brotherhood attacked and torched over 100 churches, homes and businesses owned by Christians, whom they held partly responsible for the overthrow.

The church officially reopened on 14 November when the army handed over the building to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Pope Tawadros II is to consecrate St Theodore's at a later date.

Source: Wataninet

Attacks on Christians in Bangladesh escalate

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the 18 November attack in Bangladesh on Fr. Piero Arolari, the Italian Catholic priest who survived being shot by three men on motorcycles as he cycled to work, UCA News reports.

“Security detachments of soldiers of the caliphate in Bangladesh carried out some unique operations [including] … targeting the Italian crusader foreigner,” the jihadist group said in a statement, according to the US-based SITE intelligence group.

Almost 70 Christians have received death threats by text message from IS or local Islamic fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh in the last week, local sources, who preferred to stay anonymous, told World Watch Monitor. The message read: “Your time in this world has run out. You can now do or eat whatever you want and after five days we will murder you at anytime, anywhere. Through your blood we will save the Islamic world”.

The attack on Fr. Arolari was the latest in a series of attacks on foreign nationals in Bangladesh.

In September, Caesar Tavella, an Italian aid worker, was killed in Dhaka; Islamic State claimed responsibility. IS also claimed responsibility for the murder of Japanese businessman Kunio Hoshi, 66. The government denies that IS has a presence in the country.

A week after Tavella died, a local priest survived what appeared to be a pre-meditated attack at his home. A year ago, hundreds of extremist Islamists attacked a Christian school in Bangladesh, which welcomes children of all faiths, in response to locals who were outraged by rumours stating that the school was forcing Muslim children to convert to Christianity.

Meanwhile a Muslim mob has burned down the homes of four Catholic families after a long campaign of abuse against them.

“For more than a year, Muslim youths from a neighbouring village accused us of practicing witchcraft,” said Ramni Das, 57 who lost two houses in the attack on 5 November. The families escaped after neighbours pulled them from the burning bulidings.

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