Islamic State Said to Carry Out Beheadings and Kidnap 400 Civilians in Eastern Syria

A monitoring group says the militants committed a mass kidnapping after attacking areas held by the Assad regime in the province of Deir al-Zor.
January 17, 2016, 2:10pm
A man is comforted as he mourns the death of his brother in Deir al-Zor on February 20, 2014. (Photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Islamic State (IS) militants have reportedly kidnapped at least 400 civilians after attacking government-held areas in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The UK-based monitoring group said on Sunday that families of pro-government fighters were among those abducted.

"There is genuine fear for their lives, there is a fear that the group might execute them as it has done before in other areas," said SOHR director Rami Abdulrahamn.

Deir al-Zor is the main town in a province of the same name. The province links the Islamic State's de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa with territory controlled by the militant group in neighboring Iraq.

Syria's state news agency SANA said earlier that at least 300 people, including women and children, had been killed during the attacks in Deir al-Zor, but it made no mention of people getting kidnapped.

Related: Fight Against Islamic State Not Going So Well, Say Former Administration Officials

Syria's government condemned the killings, describing them as a "horrific massacre against the residents of Begayliya in Deir al-Zor."

A source close to the Syrian government told Reuters on Saturday that some of those killed had been beheaded. Those reports could not be independently verified.

IS has previously carried out mass killings following military assaults in Iraq and Syria, including the slaughter of 200 soldiers captured from the Tabqa airbase in Raqqa province, and hundreds of members of the al-Sheitat tribe in Deir al-Zor in 2014.

Since March, the group, which controls of most of Deir al-Zor province, has laid siege to remaining government-held areas in the city of Deir al-Zor.

Residents are facing severe food shortages and sharply deteriorating conditions. Of those under siege in the city, 70 percent are women and children, and many have been displaced from their homes elsewhere and are living in temporary shelters.

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