According to state news in Syria, ISIS has kidnapped more than 300 workers, contractors, and laborers at a cement factory outside the Syrian capital of Damascus today. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency broke the news this morning, reports CNN. According to reports from the Syrian Ministry of Industry, ISIS has captured a cement factory just outside Damascus and has kidnapped at least 300 factory workers and contractors.
“We haven’t been able to reach our family members since noon on Monday after an attack by Daesh on the factory,” said a resident of the town of Dmeir, around 30 miles east of Damascus.
ISIS kidnapped the workers after taking control of the facility on Monday, reports CNN. According to witnesses on the ground, ISIS militants forced the workers into buses and headed to areas more firmly under ISIS control. Today, Syrian State TV is confirming the abduction of the cement workers by the militant group ISIS.
The workers kidnapped by ISIS were contractors for the Al Badia Cement Company, and the employer lost contact with the kidnapped workers this morning. The ISIS kidnappings come just as the United States and its allies conducted around 27 strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. ISIS continues to lose ground on the battlefield even after the high-profile attacks in Turkey and Brussels this past month. Some commentators have speculated that ISIS has stepped up its insurgent campaign against the Bashar Al-Assad government in Syria, including actions like today’s kidnapping, as the militant group grows increasingly desperate.
The ISIS kidnapping comes just as Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the Russian mission in Syria has been accomplished.
“It is too early to say we have reached a crucial breakthrough but it is evident that we have accomplished our mission,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin this morning, just hours after Syrian news confirmed the recent ISIS kidnapping.
The ISIS kidnapping of 300 cement workers is likely a response to ISIS’ recent high-profile defeat at locations throughout Syria, including Palmyra, reports Al Arabiya. Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that Russia’s military operation against ISIS has reinforced the statehood of Syria and the legitimate government of Bashar Al-Assad, a close ally of the Putin regime.
The town of Dmeir, where many of the cement workers kidnapped by ISIS call home, was hit by shelling in recent weeks as the Syrian government presses against ISIS territory. Al Arabiya speculates that the ISIS kidnapping could be retaliation for recent losses to the Al-Assad regime.
Syrian defense officials confirmed to Al Arabiya that ISIS fighters had also tried to seize a nearby airbase in Dmeir, as well as a local power plant, but government forces were able to repel the ISIS militants.
In related news, the French government has criticized the Syrian government for the breakdown in cease-fire talks between Al-Assad and rebel forces within Syria, which would have reportedly improved the humanitarian situation on the ground, further strengthening the people of Syria against ISIS.
“France condemns the violations of the cessations of hostilities for which the regime is responsible and the restraints placed on the work of humanitarian organizations,” said French Foreign Minister Romain Nadal today in response to the deteriorating conditions for Syrian civilians.
Jan Egeland, a humanitarian advisor for the UN, told reporters in Geneva this week that humanitarian efforts have slowed down due to the increased military tension between ISIS, Al-Assad’s forces, and rebel forces within Syria.
“April was supposed to be our best month, but aid delivery is not getting better, it’s actually slowing down,” said Jan Egeland today, speaking with reporters in Geneva.
[Photo by Natalia Sancha/AP]