Syria: Muslims murdered by ISIS for helping Christians flee al-Qaryatain

Syrian forces loyal to President Assad walk through al-Qaryatain after it was recaptured on April 3.Reuters

Muslims helping Christians to escape from the besieged Syrian city of al-Qaryatain were murdered when they were discovered by jihadists, according to the Fides news agency.

More information has emerged about the treatment of Christians in the city, which was retaken at the beginning of April from Islamic State by Syrian army forces.

Many Christians were killed during Islamic State's eight-month rule in the town. However, rather than a single massacre, Fides' research indicates they died in different circumstances and over a period of time.

According to local sources contacted by Fides, in September last year some Christians died of natural causes while one was killed in a bombing raid. Three others were taken as hostages to Raqqa, though rumours spread that they were killed. One Christian was murdered by jihadists for 'blasphemy'.

In October Christians began to escape from the city in small groups, beginning with unmarried girls fearful of being forced to marry jihadists. Fr Jaques Murad, prior of the Mar Elian monastery, was among those who escaped during this period.

Six Muslims lost their lives with five Christians at a farm being used as a base to help people escape to Homs. The farm, in an area controlled by neither side, was also used to store goods the refugees were unable to take with them.

All 11 died in December when the farm was attacked by around 50 men who looted the goods left in storage.

After the first escapes the jihadists seized 10 young Christians and threatened them with death if they did not convert to Islam. They had previously been told by priests and Christian leaders that in such cases it was better to declare their conversion to Islam rather than lose their lives on the grounds that an insincere denial of faith was invalid.

The last three Christians to die in al-Qaryatain were killed in the Russian air assault that led to the recapture of the town.