ISIS murder Armenian priest and his father in al-Zir, Syria

The Islamic State group (ISIS) on Monday claimed responsibility for the gunning down of an Armenian Catholic Priest and his father in the northeast Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, just hours after the shooting took place.

ISIS claimed Monday afternoon via its Telegram channels to have killed “two Christian priests” in al-Zir village, in the al-Busayrah sub-district of Deir ez-Zor.

Syrian state TV SANA reported the “martyrdom” of Priest Housib Abraham Bidoyan, head of the Armenian Catholic Church in Qamishli, and his father. The two were killed by unidentified gunmen, SANA said, as they travelled southbound from Hasaka province to Deir ez-Zor.

The priest and his father had been on their way to “supervise the restoration” of a church when they were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), UK-based war monitor.

Rojava Information Center, a volunteer-run monitor with close ties to the ruling Kurdish authorities in north and east Syria, named the priest as Hanna Ibrahim and his father as Hanna Bido.

The Armenian community in Syria, whose current numbers are unknown, are the survivors of the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians in the early twentieth century. Driven into Syria by the notorious “death marches”, many eventually ended up settling in the country.

A church and memorial named the Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Memorial stands in Deir ez-Zor.

The church was blown up in 2014. Though its perpetrators were never identified, some blamed ISIS, who held control of most of the province at the time, for the attack. Others have levelled blame at Jabhat al-Nusra, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria.