Islamic State terrorists have bombed Christian-owned restaurants in the Syrian city of Qamishli.

Residents of the city in Syria’s north-eastern province of Hasakah were preparing to celebrate the New Year when the attackers struck on Wednesday at three restaurants, killing 16 people and wounding more than 45 others.

At least two of the attacks were described as suicide bombing by a spokesman for the the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls the town and which is fighting Islamic State.

The churches cancelled New Year celebrations after the attacks. A joint statement by the Assyrian-Syriac Churches of Hasakah province said: “We dedicate this evening to prayers for the victims of those attacks. We pray for our region and country amid the bloody war that claims lives of civilians every day.”

Speaking to ARA News in Qamishli, Father Touni Hannah condemned the attacks and appealed to people to avoid gathering in public places “to avoid the loss of any more innocents”.

“People were making their preparations to celebrate this Eve, but they were shocked with the brutal attacks that killed and wounded dozens of civilians,” Hannah said.

“We hope the year 2016 would bring peace to Syria and the region after years of bloodshed.”

In a separate statement the secretary general of the US-based Assyrian Universal Alliance also condemned the attacks and called for the assault on Christians in Iraq and Syria to be recognised as genocide. Yonathan BetKolia said: “These cowardly attacks are directed at uprooting Assyrians from their ancestral lands. The utter failure of the non-Christian forces in control of the area to avert such inhumane attacks on innocent people is not only unacceptable but unpardonable.

“Time and time again we have witnessed the utter failure of regional armed forces to provide the necessary security and safety for the Christians in the region. The Assyrians demand that they immediately be trained and equipped to take control over their own safety, security and destiny in the region.”