ISIS abducts more than 400 civilians in east Syria: Monitor

BEIRUT (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) abducted at least 400 civilians including women and children after capturing new territory in an assault on Syria's eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitor said on Sunday (Jan 17).

"After their attack on Deir Ezzor (on Saturday), ISIS abducted at least 400 civilians from the residents of the Al-Baghaliyeh neighbourhood it captured and adjacent areas in the northwest of the city," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Those abducted, all of whom are Sunnis, include women, children and family members of pro-regime fighters," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. They were transported to areas under ISIS control in the west of Deir Ezzor province and to the border with the Raqqa province to the north-west.

The ISIS attack on Deir Ezzor on Saturday killed at least 85 civilians and 50 regime forces, the monitor said. Syria’s state news agency SANA, quoting residents, said “around 300 civilians” were killed in the onslaught and denounced a “massacre”.  

If confirmed it would be one of the highest tolls for a single day in Syria’s nearly five-year war.

According to the Observatory, the advance put ISIS in control of around 60 per cent of Deir Ezzor city, capital of the province of the same name in an oil-rich region bordering Iraq.

Sporadic fighting between ISIS and regime forces continued on Sunday in the north-west of the city, the monitor said.

Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in support of regime fighters in Al-Baghaliyeh overnight, it said.  The regime still controls parts of the provincial capital and a nearby military airport despite repeated attacks from ISIS.