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ISIS fighters abduct up to 400 civilians in major attack on Deir ez-Zor

The Isis offensive in Deir ez-Zor may be intended to boost its profile, after losing territory recently to different forces. Photograph: Ahmad Aboud/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic State fighters have abducted more than 400 civilians after capturing new ground in a major assault on the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor that left dozens dead, according to reports.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Isis killed at least 135 people in the multi-front attack that began on Saturday.

The dead included 85 civilians and 50 regime fighters, according to the human rights monitor, which said on Sunday that Isis also kidnapped more than 400 civilians from captured territory.

“Those abducted, all of whom are Sunnis, include women, children and family members of pro-regime fighters,” said the director of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said they had been taken to areas under Isis control in the west of Deir ez-Zor province and to the border with Raqqa province – Isis’s main stronghold in Syria – to the northwest.

The monitor said at least 42 Isis fighters had been killed in the attack and that fighting was ongoing, with regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes trying to recapture lost ground. It added that regime forces were bringing additional troops and military equipment from elsewhere in the city to the battlefront.

Syria’s state news agency, Sana, said at least 300 civilians, “most of them women, children and elderly people”, were killed in the assault. It denounced the deaths as a “massacre”.

It was not possible to independently verify the reports.

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