A picture taken on October 25, 2013 shows members of jihadist group Al-Nusra Front taking part in a parade calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria, at the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo. AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI
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BADROUSIEH, Syria: When hundreds of residents of the postcard-pretty coastal Syrian village of Kassab fled this week, it bore historic weight: it was the third time since 1900 that ethnic Armenians there felt compelled to run for their lives.This time it was Syrian rebels storming into town. It was a heavy blow for the minority community that sees the town as key to preserving the Armenians' identity in Syria.Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian said Kassab was attacked by Turkish militants in 1909, forcing local Armenians to flee for their lives.Other areas in modern-day Syria once had ancient Armenian villages, but residents left to join larger communities in cities like Aleppo, or assimilated into the wider Christian minority, or emigrated, said Geuikjian.Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said ethnic Armenians accounted for about 70 percent of Kassab's population.Before the Syrian uprising, there were some 70,000 ethnic Armenians in Syria, particularly concentrated in the northern city of Aleppo and the area around Kassab. There are no statistics of how many Armenians remain, but Geukjian estimated some 15,000 Armenians remained of a pre-war population of 40,000 in Aleppo.
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