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Islamic State Detains Christians in Raqqa to Be Used as ‘Human Shields’

The motive behind the Islamic State prohibition of Christians leaving its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, has now come to light: the Christians will be used as hostages and human shields in the event of a Russian-Syrian invasion of the Islamic capital.

Breitbart News reported Thursday that leaders of the so-called Islamic caliphate in Syria had issued orders forbidding Christians from leaving their capital city of Raqqa, a decree that seemed counter-intuitive given the jihadists’ prior record of religious cleansing of Christians from the area.

New reports reveal that the Christians are being held back as hostages to be used as cannon fodder in case the Islamist stronghold suffers an armed attack.

Raqqa’s last remaining Christians have been forbidden from leaving the city “under any condition,” as armed forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad and their allies advance towards the city.

Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support dislodged ISIS militants from their base in Palmyra on Sunday, handing the caliphate a major strategic setback. During 2015, the jihadists wreaked devastation on Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, destroying ancient statues and blowing up its iconic ancient arches, an important historical landmark.

The ISIS defeat meant that the desert roads leading east towards Raqqa and the other main Islamic State stronghold, Deir al-Zor, are now open.

The activist group Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS) reported on the edict via social media, observing that there are only 43 Christian families left in Raqqa, each comprising two to three members. Prior to the rise of the Islamic State, there were as many as 1,500 Christian families in the Syrian city.

Christians living under Islamic State rule are not permitted to build any new churches or repair existing ones. They cannot publicly show any crosses, pray or recite the Bible, and may not interfere in the conversion of any Christian to the Muslim religion. They are also barred from selling pork products or alcohol to any Muslims nor to consume these products themselves in public.

Under mounting pressure, the Obama administration finally declared in mid-March that ISIS was guilty of genocide against Christians and other religious minority groups in the areas it has conquered. The U.S. Congress voted unanimously to make the declaration days earlier.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of recent Islamic State terror attacks in European cities, ISIS propaganda is urging Muslims to follow the example of those who bombed Brussels and to carry out similar attacks in countries such as Germany.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter   

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