In a brazen assault near the Syrian capital, Islamic State militants on Thursday abducted 300 cement workers and contractors in an area northeast of Damascus, reports the AP, citing Syrian state TV reports. The mass abduction from the al-Badia Cement Company took place in Dumeir, an area where militants launched a surprise attack against government forces earlier this week. State-run news agency SANA quoted a source in the company as saying that there has been no success in efforts to establish contact with any of the workers. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria conflict, said earlier in the day that contact was lost with the workers.
No further details of the abduction were immediately known and there has been no claim of responsibility. Mass abductions have taken place on occasion in Syria during the country's devastating civil war, now in its sixth year, most often of religious minorities such as Christians. The abduction came as fighting with ISIS militants raged in northern Syria on Thursday. Syrian opposition fighters have advanced on strongholds of the group, including the ISIS-held town of al-Rai in northern Aleppo. Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for Syria said the next round of peace talks in Geneva was expected to start next week, around April 13.