Armenian Catholic priest killed in Syria; ISIS claims responsibility

Qamishli, Syria, Nov 12, 2019 / 12:59 pm (CNA).- The Islamic State (ISIS) militant group on Monday claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Armenian Catholic priest and his father in northeastern Syria.

Father Hovsep Bedoyan was the head of the Armenian Catholic community in the the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli, near the border with Turkey.

He and his father, Abraham Bedoyan, were traveling south to the province of Deir Al-Zor when unidentified gunmen ambushed their vehicle Nov. 11, Vatican News reported.

Fati Sano, a deacon from the region, was also in the car, and was badly wounded and reported to be in critical condition.

The priest and his father were traveling to Deir ez-Zor to inspect an Armenian Catholic Church which had suffered damage in the Syrian civil war, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).

Pope Francis said Tuesday he was praying for the priest, his father and his relatives. Father Bedoyan, a married priest, reportedly is survived by a wife and children.

Dozens of mourners attended the funeral today in Qamishli for the victims.

The area that the victims were traveling from is largely controlled by Kurdish forces, against whom Turkey launched an incursion last month after the US decision to move troops from the area.

The same day as the shooting, two bombings in Qamishli, one of them close to a Chaldean Catholic church, reportedly killed at least five people and wounded 26 others.

ISIS was declared officially declared militarily defeated in Syria this past March, ICC reports. President Donald Trump announced in October the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.

Kurdish leaders have warned of the threat Islamic State sleeper cells still pose in the area and warn that the Turkish offensive at the border would allow a jihadist resurgence in the area, Reuters reports. At least 1,000 ISIS supporters have escaped from detention during the conflict so far, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Bishops in Syria and Iraq have called for worldwide prayer as the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces further destabilizes northern Syria. Aid groups working in northeastern Syria are pulling out of the area, saying that it is becoming too dangerous.

The Armenian Catholic Church is a church sui iuris and in full communion with Rome, and constitutes approximately 600,000 members.

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