Jihadists from the Islamic State group have abducted more than 400 Syrian civilians after capturing new ground in a major assault on the city of Deir ez-Zor that left dozens dead.
Jihadists from the Islamic State group have abducted more than 400 Syrian civilians after capturing new ground in a major assault on the city of Deir ez-Zor that left dozens dead. The shock attack comes despite a Russian air campaign targeting the group that began in September, and more than a year of strikes by a US-led coalition against the jihadists in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had killed at least 135 people in the multi-front attack that began on Saturday.
The dead included 85 civilians and 50 regime fighters, according to the monitor, which said Sunday that ISIS had also kidnapped more than 400 civilians from captured territory.
“Those abducted, all of whom are Sunnis, include women, children and family members of pro-regime fighters,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
He said they had been taken to areas under ISIS control in the west of Deir Ezzor province and to the border with Raqa province — the main ISIS stronghold in Syria — to the northwest.
The monitor said at least 42 ISIS fighters had been killed in the attack, adding that fighting was ongoing on Sunday, with regime forces backed by Russian air strikes trying to recapture lost ground.
It added that regime forces were bringing additional troops and military equipment from elsewhere in the city to the battlefront.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said at least 300 civilians, “most of them women, children and elderly people,” had been killed in the assault.
The ISIS assault puts the group in control of around 60 per cent of Deir ez-Zor city, which is capital of the surrounding province of the same name, an oil-rich region that borders Iraq.
The jihadist group alre-ady controls most of the province, but regime forces have clung onto part of the city and a neighbouring air base despite repeated ISIS attacks. If confirmed, the death toll in the assault would be one of the highest in a single attack by ISIS, though the jihadists have carried out mass murders before. In 2014, its fighters killed hundreds of members of the Sunni Shaitat tribe in Deir ez-Zor province after they opposed the jihadists.
And in August 2014, the group massacred some 200 Syrian soldiers when it overran the Tabqa military base in Raqa province.
The jihadists have also carried out mass abductions before, seizing more than 200 civilians from central Homs province in August 2014, and at least 220 Assyrian Christians from villages in the northeast of the country months earlier.