The Islamic State freed 43 Assyrian Christian hostages in northeastern Syria on Monday, human rights groups have confirmed.
The captives are the last of over 200 Christians to be released after their kidnapping last February from villages near Tal Tamr.
Following the abductions thousands of residents, including more than 600 children, fled the towns, becoming refugees in nearby cities, the organization said.
The U.S. State Department, in a statement following the kidnappings, condemned the abductions and ISIL’s “brutal and inhumane treatment” of those who oppose the group. The White House released a similar statement, and the United Nations Security Council “strongly condemned” the abductions and demanded release of the hostages.
According to Newsweek, the terrorist group freed the captives after receiving ransoms of $100,000 per person. While the ransoms were agreed upon in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, it remains unclear where the hostage exchange took place.
Younan Talia of the Assyrian Democratic Organization told the Associated Press that the 43 freed captives were on their way to the town of Tal Tamr. The group represents the last of more than 200 Christians freed since all were kidnapped from 11 villages near Tal Tamr. The abductions came during a three-day militant offensive as the Islamic State pushed to carve a caliphate out of a swath of Syria and Iraq.
Several Christian aid groups collaborated with IS-affiliated Sunni tribal leaders to facilitate the trade, Newsweek adds.
The Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization, which played a role in negotiating the hostage release, said in a statement on its Facebook page that while it celebrates the recent victory, it mourns the lives of other Assyrians lost to the Islamic State.
“ACERO wishes to extend its unreserved thanks to all those supporters, both institutional and individual, who have stood with the Assyrians of Syria in this arduous 12-month period,” the aid group said.
“While this news thankfully marks the end of the most recent tribulation, we mourn the tremendous losses, both human and material, suffered by the indigenous Assyrians of Syria. The destruction of their livelihoods in the historic Khabur villages is a loss for the Assyrian nation and for Syria as a whole,” the organization added.