IS Seizes Key Town, Kidnaps 230 in Syria

IS Seizes Key Town, Kidnaps 230 in SyriaIS Seizes Key Town, Kidnaps 230 in Syria

Islamic State militants have abducted dozens of Christian families after seizing a strategically located town in the central Syrian province of Homs, a monitor said on Friday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 230 people were kidnapped, including dozens of Christians, some of whom were taken from a church in Qaryatain, the town captured overnight after heavy fighting with the Syrian Army, Reuters reported.

IS has killed members of religious minorities and Sunni Muslims who do not swear allegiance to its self-declared “caliphate.” They also consider Christians as infidels.

Last February, the extremist group abducted at least 250 Assyrian Christians, many of whom were children and women, during raids on villages in northeastern Syria, in a mass abduction coinciding with an offensive in the same region by Kurdish forces backed by US led airstrikes.

The fate of many of these civilians is unclear, as is that of a number of priests who went missing and are believed to be held by the militants, according to Christian groups.

 Qaryatain Captured

Earlier on Thursday, IS insurgents seized control of the key town of Qaryatain overnight after heavy clashes with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With control of Qaryatain, IS will be able to transfer fighters and supplies between the Homs countryside and Qalamoun area more easily, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Qaryatain is strategically important because it is located along a road linking the ancient city of Palmyra, which has been held by IS since May, with Qalamoun region in Damascus province.

The militants’ onslaught started Wednesday morning when three suicide bombers targeted pro-government checkpoints at the entrances of the city.

The ongoing clashes between government troops and IS are one of many fronts in Syria’s complex war, which has left more than 230,000 people dead since it began in March 2011.