Damascus – ISIS extremists kidnapped at least 200 workers and contractors at a cement factory in Syria on Monday. Al-Badiyeh Cement Co. told a source in Syria’s Ministry of Industry that the militants had abducted the employees from the plant near Damascus, Syrian Arab News Agency reported. By late Thursday afternoon, the company had been unable to contact their staff.

ISIS forces attacked several government checkpoints and areas in eastern Damascus. While they were mostly repelled by government soldiers, they did manage to capture the Badia Cement Factory which was still operational at the time. Credit: Al-Masdar News

“We haven’t been able to reach our family members since noon on Monday after an attack by Daesh [ISIS] on the factory”, a local resident told AFP news agency. The resident added that there was no information about where their family members had been taken to.

The BBC reported that indirect contacts have been made as part of the efforts to ensure the release of the workers.

Witnesses said that the Islamic State assailants put about 125 abducted workers on buses headed toward areas under the terror group’s control, as local official Nadim Kreizan told SANA.

The unnamed industry ministry source told Syrian Arab News Agency that 300 workers had been kidnapped by ISIS militants and the factory administrator had previously put the number seized at 250 while rebel sources said it was not higher than 200. For its part, Ramdi Abdulrahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told CNN that 150 to 250 factory workers were missing.

The cement factory attacked by the extremists is located in Al-Dumeir, a town 30 miles northeast of the government-controlled Syrian capital. Fierce fighting involving IS militants and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has taken place in the area around the town in the last few days.

Separately, Syrian rebels in the north of the country have managed to take control over the terror group’s main supply route to Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “rebel factions and Islamists” had seized control of al-Rai, a town located on the border between Turkey and Syria.

About two weeks ago, Syrian and allied forces regained control of Palmyra, marking a huge loss to ISIS, which had held the ancient city since May last year.

Peace talks set to resume next week in Geneva

Key parties involved in the conflict are expected to resume peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, according to U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. ISIS along with al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front is out of the equation, for obvious reasons.

De Mistura told reporters on Thursday that negotiations were expected to begin on Monday, according to the BBC. Officials of Assad’s government may not join the talks until April 14 or 15 after parliamentary elections.

Source: CNN