ISIS captures hundreds of Syrian cement factory workers, report says

Story highlights

  • A U.N. envoy says Syria peace talks will resume next week in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Syrian state news: Militants captured more than 300 cement factory workers, contractors
  • Official, citing witnesses, says about 125 seen boarding buses headed to ISIS-held areas

(CNN)ISIS-affiliated militants captured more than 300 workers and contractors at a cement factory in Syria, state news reported Thursday.

Al-Badiyeh Cement Co. said the militants were holding the workers and contractors from the plant near Damascus, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, citing a source in Syria's Ministry of Industry.
    The company had not been in contact with staff as of late Thursday afternoon.
    Local official Nadim Kreizan told SANA that witnesses saw about 125 "abducted workers" being put on buses headed toward areas more firmly under ISIS control.
    Ramdi Abdulrahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told CNN he believes 150 to 250 factory employees were missing. The observatory later said that at least 140 employees of the factory were able to escape during the attack, while no less than 170 were captured.
    The factory is in Al-Dhmeir, a town 48 kilometers (about 30 miles) northeast of Damascus, the Syrian capital and the base of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

    Envoy: Peace talks to resume next week

    Civilians have been caught in the middle of Syria's 5-year-long civil war. ISIS has been accused of committing atrocities such as systematic rapes, killings and abductions and using the Syrian people as human shields.
    The conflict has left more than 250,000 people dead, more then 1 million injured and more than 11 million displaced in and outside the country, according to the United Nations.
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    Key parties in the fighting are slated to take part in resumed peace talks next week in Geneva, Switzerland, said Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. envoy to Syria. (ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front are not part of the talks.)
    Talking to reporters Thursday, de Mistura said negotiations should begin as soon as Monday. Syrian government officials may not arrive in Geneva until April 14 or 15 after parliamentary elections -- though the U.N. envoy downplayed the significance of their absence, noting that these "proximity talks" don't involve all players sitting face to face in the same room.
    De Mistura spoke of pushing toward a "political transition" in Syria, a change Western governments and Syrian rebels have championed.
    But Assad has steadfastly refused to step down as President though he's opened the door to having opposition figures in the government.