The Islamic State (ISIS) has kidnapped roughly 250 people, including dozens of Christians, after taking the Syrian town of Qaryatain near Homs. A frantic search for the families has yielded only a few positive results and human rights watchers fear the worst.
Christian leaders say the abduction is the latest in a long string of attacks against their community. Moreover, it shows that despite 6,000 airstrikes and successful Kurdish and Shia militia attacks, ISIS is still capable of taking, and terrorizing, new territory in Syria.
According to Reuters, the kidnapping was confirmed by the Christian Assyrian Network for Human Rights on Friday. About 250 were taken; around 60 of them were Christian, and the rest were Sunni Muslim. The group included at least 45 women, 17 children, and two people in wheelchairs.
A Demand for Action (ADFA), an advocacy group fighting for Middle Eastern Christian groups, released a statement according to the International Business Times.
“People have tried to reach their relatives on their mobile phones with no luck. The Islamic State has said that they have ‘arrested’ more than 100 Assyrian/Syriacs from the town of Qaryatain in Homs, Syria.”
Assyrians, also called Chaldeans, are an ancient ethnic group of Syriac Christians that retain the Aramaic language.
The Islamic State released half of the Christians, who then made their way to small villages. Activists are still trying to make contact with the remaining kidnapping victims.
ISIS took Qaryatain on Thursday. The town has a population of about 40,000 Sunni Muslims and Christians, along with large groups of displaced people.
ISIS claimed that the Syrians had been “arrested” for working with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The Islamists had lists of names for the people they took.
Neil Sammonds, Syria researcher for Amnesty International, called the kidnapping “abhorrent,” highlighting the plight of civilians stranded in the country’s civil war.
“Every effort must be made to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice.”
The Syrian National Coalition, a Western-backed opposition group, claims that Bashir al-Assad allowed the town to be captured so he could exploit the kidnapping for political gain.
Qaryatain is near the ancient town of Palmyra, which was also taken by ISIS forces. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, ISIS destroyed many of the ancient Palmyra UNESCO sites calling the Roman ruins un-Muslim and claimed they risked becoming idols.
The next town on the terrorist group’s hit list appears to be Sadad, home to over 4,000 Christian families. Some townspeople are already fleeing before becoming the victims of another ISIS kidnapping.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]