By Julia Zorthian
August 7, 2015

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) captured 230 residents, including dozens of Christians, from a densely populated town in Syria, activists reported on Friday.

On Thursday, ISIS seized control of Qaryatain in central Syria, a strategic move to gain critical territory near Homs, Palmyra and Damascus. Activists told the Associated Press that the captives initially included 60 Christian residents, before ISIS released about half. The majority of those abducted, roughly 170 captives, are Sunni Muslims, the AP reports.

Christians make up about 10% of Syria’s population, and the town of Qaryatain contains a population of about 40,000 Christians and Sunni Muslims. Religious minorities in Syria have expressed fear of targeted persecution at the hands of ISIS, and the conflict is serving to exacerbate political tensions within the region.

In February, ISIS abducted more than 220 Assyrian Christians from the province of Hassakeh, and since has released only a few of the captives.

[AP]

Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.

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