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Islamic State abducts hundreds of civilians in eastern Syria

By Fred Lambert Contact the Author   |   Jan. 17, 2016 at 4:26 PM
| License Photo

DEIR EZZOR, Syria, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Islamic State militants have abducted hundreds of civilians from the besieged city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.

Many of the estimated 400 prisoners are family members of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and were captured during an IS assault on a northwestern neighborhood of the city and the nearby village of al-Bghiliyyeh on Saturday.

At least 135 people were killed in the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, including 85 civilians and 50 pro-Assad fighters. Syrian state news put the figure at 300.

Deir Ezzor is one of several areas of Syria under siege as pro-government forces, various rebel groups and IS battle each other for control of territory.

According to the BBC, pro-government troops are besieging multiple areas around the capital of Damascus, including portions of eastern Ghouta, the western suburb of Darayya and the nearby mountain towns of Zabadani and Madaya, while rebel forces have encircled the villages of Foah and Kefraya in Idlib province and IS has besieged government-held portions of Deir Ezzor.

Civilians are prevented from leaving these areas and are suffering from shortages of food, water and medicine. Several people have reportedly died of malnutrition.

IS conducted the Saturday attack with a mixture of suicide bombers and infantry -- one of the group's favorite tactics -- and beheaded and crucified some of those it captured.

According to SOHR, IS controls about 60 percent of Deir Ezzor, but some 200,000 civilians are still living under siege in government-held areas of the city.

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