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The New Arab & agencies

IS kidnaps 230 Syrian civilians in Homs

Christians have been persecuted by extremist groups in the Syrian war [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2015

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After capturing the Syrian town of al-Qaryatain in Homs province, IS have rounded up hundreds of civilians who attempted to flee the area.

At least 230 Syrian civilians, including 50 Christians, have been kidnapped by the Islamic State group in Homs province.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the group including women and children were captured on Thursday and their fate remains unknown.

The civilians were attempting to escape al-Qaryatain in central Syria after IS overran the town on Wednesday evening. Many of the Christians had already fled from Aleppo province hoping to find safety in the town.

"[IS] kidnapped at least 230 people, including at least 60 Christians, during a sweep through al-Qaryatain," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The civilians were tracked down by the group and accused of "collaborating with the regime", said Rahman.

Al-Qaryatain lies at the crossroads between IS territory in the eastern countryside of Homs and areas further west in the Qalamoun area.

It had a pre-war population of 18,000, including Sunni Muslims and around 2,000 Syriac Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

According to a Syrian Christian who lives in Damascus but is originally from al-Qaryatain, the town's Christian population has dropped to only 300.

In May, masked men abducted Syrian priest Jacques Mourad from the Syriac Catholic Mar Elian monastery in al-Qaryatain, near the IS-captured ancient city of Palmyra.

Mourad, who was known to help both Christians and Muslims, was preparing aid for an influx of refugees from Palmyra.

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