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Islamic State target more Christian villages in Syria

by Desmond Busteed

A mixture of Assyrian Christians and Kurds are understood to have fought off the Islamic State assault.

Saturday's attacks come just weeks after the Islamic State kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians from nearby towns. In the time since the kidnappings, IS is thought to have released 23 Assyrian Christians.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fighting around Tal Tamr, which it said was coming under Islamic State artillery fire. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman told AP that the Islamic State extremists initially made gains before Kurdish fighters backed by local Assyrian militiamen pushed them back.

The Observatory said at least eight militants were killed in the fighting and an unknown number of Kurds.

The Assyrians are an indigenous Christian people who trace their roots back to ancient Mesopotamia.

Meanwhile, Islamic State militants have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra, according to Iraqi officials say.

A tourism and antiquities ministry official said the extent of the damage at the Unesco world heritage site was unclear, but he had received reports that it had been demolished.

Hatra was founded in the days of the Parthian Empire over 2,000 years ago.

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