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ISIS Blows Up Historic Christian Church in Syria on Easter

As Assyrian Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday, militants from the Islamic State blew up the 80-year-old church of the Virgin Mary in Tal Nasri village in the western countryside of Hasaka province, in northeastern Syria.

Since last February, Tal Nasri has been under the control of the jihadist group led by self-proclaimed Caliph al-Baghdadi. Fighters of Kurdish militias along with Christians who have taken up arms have been struggling for some time trying to regain control of the village.

According to reports, ISIS jihadists booby-trapped the church with explosives before detonating it.

The Church of the Virgin Mary was originally built in 1934 and is one of three main churches in the Assyrian village of Tal Nasri, which is located to the south of Tal Tamr town that was earlier overrun by ISIS.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the church has been “leveled.”

Christians are a small minority in Syria, comprising just 10% of Syria’s mostly Muslim Sunni population. Assyrian Easter celebrations this year have been limited to prayers and masses because of the dire circumstances in the conflict-ridden country.

The bombing is just the latest in a series of acts of devastation. ISIS has been targeting places of worship for destruction in the areas they take over and have already destroyed numerous religious sites and shrines. Militias have raged against any religious or artistic expression that does not conform to their worldview, razing temples, Sufi mosques, and churches, as well as destroying statues and archaeological finds with pickaxes.

A few days ago the Islamic State released a propaganda video showing a group of men engaged in destroying statues and parts of the facade of an old building in Hatra, a city of the ancient Parthian Empire.

Another image released by ISIS shows the destruction of the monastery of Mar Behnam in Iraq.

In February, Islamist militants burned down the historic church of Tal Hurmoz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, and destroyed three other churches in the town of Tal Tamer in Hasaka province.

All six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria have been damaged.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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