"They were kidnapped by the Islamic State on Feb. 23 in the governorate of Hasakah, Syria. A total of 253 Assyrian Christians, from 35 different villages along the Khabur River. A small group of 23 elderly individuals were released March 1, allegedly due to their age. Among the sources who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, the exact number of those initially abducted varies slightly. Since then, little more has been learned about the fate of those who are still held hostage. Statements that could not be confirmed claim that local Sunni leaders are negotiating for the release of the hostages. Ransom requests by IS reaching $35 million have not been met and a veil of deafening silence has covered the issue."