Syria's civil war seems to be intensifying, as "IS" militants and pro-government forces fight over territory. Casualties among civilians are rising, and the jihadists have also been accused of abducting hundreds of them.
"Islamic State" fighters kidnapped at least 400 civilians after seizing government-held areas in the city of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria, a monitoring group said on Sunday.
The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants kidnapped indiscriminately.
"Those abducted, all of whom are Sunnis, include women, children and family members of pro-regime fighters," said Rami Abdurrahman.
"There is genuine fear for their lives; there is a fear that the group might execute them as it has done before in other areas," he said.
Syria's state news agency, SANA, had earlier reported that at least 300 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the attack, but made no mention of a mass kidnapping.
The government condemned the mass killings, which it described as a "horrific massacre against the residents of Baghaliyeh in Deir el-Zour."
If the death toll is confirmed, it would be one of the highest for a single day in Syria's nearly five-year civil war.
Reports of beheadings
There are also unconfirmed reports that some of those killed were beheaded.
It's not the first time IS has been accused of mass killings. The militants also massacred some 200 Syrian soldiers in August 2014 after they overran the Tabqa military base in Raqqa province, and hundreds of members of the al-Sheitat tribe in Deir el-Zour in 2014.
Those that remain in Deir el-Zour are facing severe food shortages and rapidly deteriorating conditions. Of those under siege, 70 percent are women and children. Many have been forced from their homes and are living in temporary shelters.
The Observatory claims that "IS" advances have given it control of 60 percent of the city.
Sporadic fighting between "IS" and regime forces continued on Sunday in the northwest of the city, according to the monitor.
The militants' advance on the city comes as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad seeks to capitalize on Russian air support to regain control of northern Aleppo province.
Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in support of regime fighters on Baghaliyeh overnight, it said.
Syria's civil war has claimed 260,000 lives and forced millions from their homes.
bik/tj (Reuters, AFP)