Dozens attend funeral of IS-slain priest in northeast Syria

Qamishli (Syria) (AFP) –


Dozens of mourners filled a church Tuesday for the funeral of an Armenian Catholic priest and his father killed by the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria.

Men, women dressed in black and children gathered to celebrate the lives of Joseph Hanna Ibrahim and his father in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli.

Clerics led prayers in Armenian and Aramaic before congregation members lined up to say their farewells by coffins decorated with flowers and lit candles.

Ibrahim and his father were slain on Monday on the road to the eastern province of Deir Ezzor where they were to inspect a church being restored, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Their killing came the same day as a triple bombing in a market and near a school in Qamishli killed six civilians, the Britain-based war monitor said.

The France-based association L'Oeuvre d'Orient said Ibrahim had worked on "reconstruction projects" as well as to support displaced people in eastern Syria.

Around a million Christians live in Syria, including in Qamishli where Kurdish forces and others loyal to the Syrian regime both ensure security.

Kurdish fighters led the US-backed battle against IS in Syria, expelling the Sunni extremists from the last scrap of their self-proclaimed "caliphate" in March.

But the jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in northeastern and eastern Syria.

Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

In the latest phase of the conflict, a Turkish-led cross-border operation in northeast Syria against Kurdish fighters expelled hundreds of thousands from their homes last month.

But a fragile Turkish-Russian ceasefire deal has more or less halted that offensive and seen Kurdish forces withdraw from areas along the Turkish border, except Qamishli.