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Department of State

Activists: Islamic State group now holding 220 Christians in Syria

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The number of Christians abducted by the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria has risen to 220, activists said Thursday.

The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the civilians were kidnapped from 11 villages near the town of Tal Tamr over the past three days by the militants, who control vast swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The abductions, which started Monday, caused thousands of residents to flee and become refugees in nearby cities.

Rabbi David Saperstein confirmed as U.S. ambassador for religious freedom

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The Senate has confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, making him the first non-Christian to hold the job.

Saperstein, who led the Reform Jewish movement's Washington office for 40 years, focusing on social justice and religious freedom issues, was nominated by President Barack Obama in July and confirmed by a 62-35 vote on Friday.

Saperstein takes a liberal bent on domestic issues, and all but one of the votes against him came from a Republican.

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