- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) - Members of a Syrian family who traveled to Rhode Island on Thursday night are believed to be the first refugees from the war-torn country to arrive in the state, religious leaders said.

A couple and their three children, ages 6, 7 and 8, flew into T.F. Green Airport in Warwick and were greeted by a group of Syrian-Americans and religious leaders, according to Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island W. Nicholas Knisely and the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

The refugees’ names and where they will be living were not immediately disclosed.

“It was lovely. A group of us got word late this morning a family was coming in,” Knisely said. “It looks like it was organized by the Syrian community here in Rhode Island and we were invited.

“It was a family with small children, who had been traveling for four days,” he said. “They were exhausted but there was a really sweet look of relief on their faces as the community was able to welcome them. We’re excited to see them here.”

The family was greeted at the airport by a crowd holding balloons and offering gift bags, according to video posted on the Facebook page of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

More than a quarter-million people have been killed in Syria’s five-year civil war and millions have fled their homes.

The U.S. has taken about 2,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict there began in 2011. The Obama administration expects to take in at least 10,000 in the federal fiscal year that began in October.

Gov. Gina Raimondo previously has said Rhode Island would welcome Syrian refugees if asked to do so by the federal government. Several other governors have sought to block refugees from Syria from resettling in their states.

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