As many as 230 civilians, including scores of women and children, have reportedly been abducted by Isis in a Syrian town, an activist organisation has claimed.
Isis fighters allegedly seized 45 Assyrian Christian women and 19 children on Thursday night in Al-Qaryatain, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed.
A handwritten list of names – which The Independent was unable to verify – was being widely circulated on social media and purported to name those taken by Isis, also known as the Islamic State.
Bishop Matta al-Khoury, secretary at the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, told AFP that his organisation was unable to verify the reports, but added there were roughly 180 Christians in the town when it was seized by Isis earlier this week.
Many of the Christians in the town had reportedly sought safety in the town, having fled from the group’s advancement in the Northern Province of Aleppo.
The Assyrian Christian community has faced heavy persecution from the extremist militants, with leaders suggesting that as many as two-thirds of the Iraqi Assyrian population have fled from Isis's expansion.
Amnesty International said it was investigating SOHR’s report, but if true labelled the abduction “very worrying”.
“This does sound credible,” Amnesty Syria research Neil Sammonds told the Guardian, but he cautioned that the originally reported figure – of 150 seized – was not usual.
“We know that Christians and ‘collaborators’ are a target of IS. They are at the highest risk either for some kind of summary justice or for Christians in particular, some kind of high ransom demand or exchange,” he added.
The militants captured the town from pro-government forces on Thursday, linking Isis-held Palmyra with the Qalamun area, the BBC reported.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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