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U.S. Condemns ISIS Kidnapping Of Christians And Other Civilians

Some 230 civilians were reported to have been abducted by the religious militants in the central Syrian province of Homs.

Posted on August 8, 2015, at 12:37 p.m. ET

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The Obama administration on Friday condemned reports that ISIS militants in Syria had kidnapped more than 200 civilians, including dozens of Christians, in the central province of Homs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said Friday that the fate of some 230 civilians kidnapped from the city of al-Qaryatayn was unknown.

Sources told the monitors that the civilians were abducted according to "name lists" during clashes in the city between militants and regime forces.

Some were reportedly seized from a local monastery, including the head religious leader.

In a statement Friday night, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. demanded "the immediate and unconditional release" of the abducted civilians.

"The fact that this kidnapping deliberately targeted members of a religious minority group further testifies to ISIL’s rampant criminality and brutality against all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs," Toner said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

"ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths — including, in this instance, Christians — and the majority of its victims have been Muslims.

"To help bring an end to horrors like these, we remain committed to leading the international coalition to degrade and defeat ISIL," he said.

Christians, who make up an estimated 10% of Syria's population of 22 million people, have been routinely targeted by ISIS since the group emerged during the chaos of the Syrian civil war last year.

In February, ISIS was reported to have conducted a series of raids on Assyrian Christian villages, kidnapping more than 200 people.

Earlier that month, 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded on a beach in Libya by purported ISIS militants. In April, some 30 Ethiopian Christians were beheaded or shot in the head in another ISIS propaganda video.