BEIRUT: The militant Islamic State (IS) group on Tuesday abducted 19 people in the centre of war-torn Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The militants attacked Syrian government forces in the Badia desert, before kidnapping eight policemen and 11 civilians from a small village.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the militants had taken “a number of inhabitants” from the village of al-Saan in Hama province, after they went looking for truffles, fungi used in cooking.
Others were wounded and taken to hospital, it said.
IS fighters have ramped up their attacks in the past months against Syrian government security forces in the vast desert that stretches across central Syria to the eastern border with Iraq. They have abducted civilians, shepherds and soldiers, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“Those abducted are usually killed, especially if they are members of the Syrian government forces,” he said.
He said the kidnapping was the largest by the militant group since they lost the last scrap of their cross-border proto-state in 2019. IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014.
They were expelled from their last patch of territory in eastern Syria in March 2019, but have retained a presence in the vast Badia desert.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021