ISIS has conducted a mass kidnapping of industrial workers near Syria’s capital, Damascus, according to Syrian state media and an independent rights group.
There are conflicting reports about how many people were taken from the al-Badiyeh Cement Co., located northwest of Damascus in the town of Dumeir. NPR’s Alison Meuse tells our Newscast Unit that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 170 people were kidnapped, but Syrian state media puts that number at more than 300.
Here’s more from Alison:
“Syria’s minister of industry says his office is working to free hundreds of workers. They were abducted by ISIS from an industrial zone. A local official tells state media he saw the men being transported toward the eastern suburbs of Damascus. His office earlier received more than 100 workers fleeing a separate factory.
“ISIS is known for executing those accused of working with the Assad regime, including civilian employees. In recent weeks, the extremists have faced setbacks as Assad’s forces push the group further from the densely populated area around the capital.”
A ministry of industry official said the company has not been able to reach any of the kidnapped workers, according to SANA, the Syrian state news wire.
The Associated Press reports that “militants launched a surprise attack against government forces earlier this week” in the same area as the factory.
The wire service adds: “There was no formal responsibility claim for the kidnapping, but the IS-linked Aamaq agency posted a video showing the deserted cement factory, located near a military air base.”
Islam Alloush, a spokesman for the Army of Islam rebel group that has a presence in the area of the kidnapping, told the AP that “Islamic militants attacked five targets in the town, including other insurgents’ positions near the airport.” He added that the Army of Islam assisted some workers who escaped.
Also on Thursday, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told reporters that they are planning to resume peace talks during the week of April 11, though he says the exact date has not been set.