Islamic State (IS) militants have captured dozens of Christian families after seizing a strategically located town in the central Syrian province of Homs on Friday 7 August. At least 230 people were kidnapped or detained, including dozens of Christians, some of whom were taken from the Dar Alyan monastery in Qaryatain, the town captured overnight after intense fighting with the Syrian army.
Among those seized were 45 women and 19 children, including 11 families, some of whom were on a list of persons suspected by the militant group of “collaborating with the regime.” The families of hundreds of Christian and Muslim residents of Qaryatain have lost contact with them since the militants captured the area. He fears that IS may also target other Christian population centres in Hawwarin and Sadad.
Towns like Qaryatain are key to IS because they are along the Damascus-Homs Highway, a route used to ferry supplies and fighters. The Syrian army has launched a large-scale counter offensive to recapture the city, which lies in a region where some of Syria’s largest gas fields are located, but so far has made no significance advances.
Last February, the hard-line jihadists abducted at least 250 Assyrian Christians, many of whom were women and children, during raids on villages in north-eastern Syria. The fate of many of these civilians is unclear, as is that of a number of other priests who have gone missing and are believed to be held by the militants, according to Christian groups.
Sources: International Christian Concern, BBC, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
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