Christians flee Syria’s Kessab, Armenia accuses Turkey
The Syrian army is trying to retake the Christian majority town of Kessab reportedly seized by al-Qaeda-linked forces. The attack made hundreds of ethnic Armenians flee and caused international outcry with Armenia blaming Turkey for supporting extremists.
Kessab – located in Syria’s Latakia province, near the border with Turkey – fell to militants sparking a fierce battle in the media as conflicting reports are coming in about the events in the town which is home to over 2,000 ethnic Armenians.
Reportedly, on March 21, foreign backed extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda crossed into Syria from Turkey and seized the town after clashes with Syrian government troops and local self-defense squads.
According to the Armenian side, the militants were supported by Turkish forces. Ankara denied the allegations as “totally unfounded and untrue”.
The relations between Armenia and Turkey have long been strained over Ankara’s refusal to recognize Armenian genocide after WWI.
With the help of local self-defense forces and the Syrian army the majority of ethnic Armenians managed to flee Kessab and are currently resided on the territory of an Armenian church in the coastal city of Latakia, Arman Saakyan, Armenian MP from the Republican Party said.
The residents of the town managed to escape in the very last moment before “their homes were attacked,” Bugus Kazaryan, the chair of the Armenian Community Council in Latakia told RT. He said around 850 families from Kessab – “not only Armenians, but also residents of other nationalities” – have currently taken shelter in Latakia.
They fled the town in order to let the Syrian Army “destroy the terrorists who only came to Syria to kill, they’ve got no other goals,” Kazaryan said.
“The bombardment started early morning. We struggled to save our son. We were laying on the ground because of the heavy bombing. We could take nothing from our home,” Kessab resident Hrach Chegelian told RT.
During the past several days a number of reports have been circulating in media and online, claiming violent atrocities by militants, manslaughter of Armenians in the area.
However, so far, there is no confirmed information that any of Kessab’s civilians died due to fighting.