Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Islamic State forces have abducted 230 people, including more than 60 Christians, from al-Qaryatain, a town in central Syria, which they took yesterday from pro-regime forces, said the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) based on reports from its network of local informers.
SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman said that IS militants abducted about 170 Sunnis and more than 60 Christians for collaborating with the Assad regime when they searched the city on Wednesday.
In an official statement, Bishop Matta al-Khoury, secretary of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, said that he could not confirm what was happening in the city, because "it is very difficult to reach people." However, we know that “when they entered the city, they [the Jihadis] banned residents from leaving in order to use them as human shields" to protect themselves from Syrian air strikes.
Before the war, al-Qaryatain was home to 18,000 Sunnis and about 2,000 Syriac Catholics and Orthodox. After IS seized the town, Christians fled, with only perhaps 180 left. Some of those detained were Christians staying in the monastery of Mar Elian where gunmen abducted its prior, Fr Jacques Mourad last May.
Local witnesses report that when IS forces moved into the city, they had a list of people to arrest, and detained entire families and anyone trying to flee.
Since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, some 240,000 people have died and more than 3.2 million people have fled the country with an additional 7.6 million internally displaced.
Since it emerged amid war and terror, the Islamic State group has lived up to its reputation of violence and brutality. Thousands of people, including 1.800 civilians and 74 children, have been executed since it established its so-called caliphate from seized chunks of Syria and Iraq.