More than 300 staff at a cement factory near Damascus have been kidnapped after an attack earlier this week by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Syrian state TV said on Thursday. Hundreds of employees at the Al Badia Cement company were taken by ISIL fighters from a factory 50km east of the Syrian capital, the report quoted the industry ministry as saying.
It added the workers’ employer had lost all contact with them. There were conflicting reports earlier on Thursday about the number of people missing. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “dozens” of staff had disappeared, while a plant administrator put the figure at 250. “There is information that the workers might have been kidnapped by Islamic State and taken to an unknown destination,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the Observatory’s head, told the DPA news agency.
A resident of Dumeir, 50km east of the Syrian capital, told the AFP news agency that contact with family members had been lost “since noon on Monday”. The cement factory lies outside Dumeir, which has seen fierce battles between government forces and ISIL fighters inside the town. A Syrian security source told AFP that ISIL also tried to seize a nearby airbase and power plant from the government, without succeeding.