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Attack badly damages church in northeast Syria

An Assyrian Orthodox church was attacked Monday in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, resulting in extensive damage to its interior, local sources said.

"Anonymous gunmen stormed the St. Charnel Church for Assyrian Orthodox in the Watwatiyah district of Qamishli in the midnight on Monday, and destroyed its contents," a spokesman for the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights told ARA News.

It's not the first time Qamishli has been subject to a militant attack. Islamic State claimed responsibility for three attacks on the city last December that killed more than a dozen people.

The Assyrian Monitor added the unknown attackers used Molotov cocktails, and that icons and other contents were destroyed.

India: Chhattisgarh Christians attacked by mob

Three Christians were attacked on Sunday (17 July) by a mob of more than 50 suspected Hindu extremists in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, reports UCAN.

Umesh Patel, a student, his father, Sudhama, and a family friend, Kiran Vishwakarma, were seriously injured after Umesh had been questioned about his Christian faith, UCAN reports.

The Patels’ house was also “trashed by the mob”, it says, while the three remain in a “serious condition” in hospital.

“We keep getting several reports of assaults on poor Christians living in villages every day from different parts of the country,” Tomson Thomas, who heads the India operations of Persecution Relief, told UCAN.

In the first four months of 2016, there were 49 reported incidents against Christians in Chhattisgarh, ruled by the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP. This included an assault on an Indian pastor and his pregnant wife, whose church was set on fire after they refused to praise a Hindu god.

In 2014 and 2015, 93 organised attacks on Christians were reported in Chhattisgarh.

Iranian Christian released, but another beaten

An Iranian Christian has been released from prison and told he does not need to serve a suspended sentence of a further year in jail, reports MEC.

However, three fellow Christians arrested with him in March 2014 at a picnic in Shush, western Iran, remain in prison. Hossein Barounzadeh, Mohammad Bahrami and Rahman Bahmani each have four months left of their one-year jail terms for spreading Christianity in Iran.

Meanwhile, another Iranian Christian has been beaten up by prison guards and dragged against his will to an appeals hearing, only for the hearing to then be postponed until November.

Ebrahim Firouzi, originally arrested in March 2013, was initially given a year’s jail term, followed by two months in “exile” in a remote city in the southeast of Iran, for “promoting Christian Zionism, attempting to launch a Christian website, contact with suspicious foreigners and running online church services”. He rejected the charges, saying the allegations had been fabricated by security authorities and interrogators.

He was originally due for release in January 2015, but was kept in prison and retried in March 2015 under new charges of “acting against national security, gathering and collusion”. He was sentenced to a further five years in jail and has since gone on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in prison.

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