Is­lamic State kid­naps 230 civil­ians in cen­tral Syria, says rights group

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Is­lamic State group has ab­ducted 230 civil­ians, in­clud­ing at least 60 Chris­tians, in a cen­tral Syr­ian town hours af­ter it cap­tured it, a mon­i­tor­ing group said on Fri­day.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the civil­ians were taken on Thurs­day in the town of Al-Qary­atain, which IS ji­hadists had cap­tured late Wed­nes­day.

“Daesh kid­napped at least 230 peo­ple, in­clud­ing at least 60 Chris­tians, dur­ing a sweep through Al-Qary­atain,” Ob­ser­va­tory chief Rami Ab­del Rah­man said, us­ing another name for IS.

Bishop Matta al-Khoury, sec­re­tary at the Syr­iac Ortho­dox Pa­tri­ar­chate in Damascus, told AFP he could not con­firm what had hap­pened in the town “be­cause it’s very hard to reach res­i­dents now.”

“But we know that when IS en­tered the town, it forced some peo­ple into house ar­rest... to use them as hu­man shields” against regime air strikes, Al-Khoury said.

Ac­cord­ing to Ab­del Rah­man, many of the Chris­tians had fled from the north­ern province of Aleppo to seek refuge in Al-Qary­atain.

He said those ab­ducted were wanted by IS for “col­lab­o­rat­ing with the regime,” and their names were on a list used by the ji­hadists as they swept through the town.

Fam­i­lies who tried to flee or hide were tracked down and taken by the ji­hadists, he said.

Al-Khoury urged IS to al­low res­i­dents who want to leave the town to de­part.

Al-Qary­atain lies at the cross­roads be­tween IS ter­ri­tory in the eastern coun­try­side of Homs and ar­eas fur­ther west in the Qala­mun area.

It had a pre-war pop­u­la­tion of 18,000, in­clud­ing Sunni Mus­lims and around 2,000 Syr­iac Catholics and Ortho­dox Chris­tians.

Al-Khoury said only 180 Chris­tians were in the town when IS seized it.

In May, masked men ab­ducted Syr­ian priest Jac­ques Mourad from the Syr­iac Catholic Mar Elian monastery in Al-Qary­atain, near the IS-cap­tured an­cient city of Palmyra.

Mourad, who was known to help both Chris­tians and Mus­lims, was pre­par­ing aid for an in­flux of refugees from Palmyra.

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