|© Sultan Kitaz / Reuters|
"The company has informed the officials that over 300 workers and contractors have been kidnapped by Islamic State militant group," Syrian SANA news agency reported, citing a source in the Ministry of Industry. The source added that the company couldn't establish contact with any of the people.
One of the officials in charge of observing the ceasefire in the region has informed the agency of reports from eyewitnesses who claim they saw presumed IS vehicles in the area carrying at least 125 workers. The vehicles headed to the Eastern Ghouta region, SANA reported.
The people are feared kidnapped, AFP also reported, citing local residents and a factory administrator who said the employees have been unreachable since Monday.
"We haven't been able to reach our family members since noon on Monday after an attack by Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS] on the factory. We have no information about where they are," a resident of the town of Dmeir said on Thursday.
The Badiyah cement factory is located outside Dmeir, about 50km to the east of the capital Damascus.
A Syrian security source told AFP that IS forces had also attempted to take control of Dmeir airbase and a power plant, but had failed.
Earlier on Tuesday, IS fighters started attacks against government forces in areas near Damascus, allegedly attempting to gain back territories after suffering losses across Syria.
In particular, IS attacked the Tishrin power station, located 50km from the capital. A Syrian military source confirmed to Reuters that the attack took place, adding that all the assailants were killed.
A neighborhood in the Syrian town of Aleppo, which is held by Kurdish militias, has reportedly been shelled with chemical agents from territory held by Islamist and FSA factions. Videos posted online purportedly show yellow gas rising over Sheikh Maqsood.
A video allegedly shot in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood shows several men experiencing difficulty breathing and a voice behind the camera saying there was a chemical attack in the area. Kurdish journalist Kovan Direj reported that civilians and YPG fighters had been exposed to yellow smoke. He said nine civilians were killed and 29 injured in the shelling.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that more than 1,000 Al-Nusra militants, along with seven tanks and 24 all-terrain vehicles armed with heavy machine guns, are currently based on the northern outskirts of Aleppo.
The Russian military also stated that, over the past 24 hours, Islamic State and Al-Nusra militants have been stepping up armed provocations against civilians and government troops in the area, which included an attempt to capture the village of Handrat.
“Over the past 24 hours [the militants] shelled he village Handrat with mortars 6 times, killed two and wounded six more civilians,” according to the Russian center for reconciliation in Syria.
The ceasefire in Syria came into force at midnight Damascus time on February 27. The truce does not cover groups officially recognized as terror-organizations by the UN Security Council, namely Islamic State and Al Nusra, as well as several others.