An observation group says the Islamic State (IS) militants kidnapped 230 people in Syria, including dozens of Christians, some taken from a monastery.
Word of the mass kidnapping comes as the deadline for the life of Croatian man in Egypt, whom militants have threatened to kill if Muslim women are not released from Egyptian jails, approaches.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says militants had prepared lists of names of people to capture in the strategic town of al-Qaryatayn, where IS militants are fighting the army of President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking on Arab television, the monitoring group’s chief, Rami Abdel Rahman, says the the whereabouts of the victims, including scores of women and children, remains unknown.
The same group has threatened to kill a Croatian man in Egypt if their vague demand for the Egyptian government to release Muslim women from prisons is not met.
In a video released two days ago, the victim, Tomislav Salopek, reads a statement declaring a 48-hour deadline, but it is not clear exactly when the deadline expires.
The self-proclaimed militant caliphate claims vast territories in both Syria and Iraq, but has recently claimed attacks across the Middle East and beyond.
In Jordan, political analyst Labib Kamhawi says while the attacks are connected, the IS group, also called ISIL, ISIS or Daesh, has grown to be more of concept than a group.
“Anybody who feels like taking matters to his own hands would come up and say ‘I am ISIS' or ‘I recognize ISIS,’ or ‘I will operate under their name,’ but it is not a central organization as such," said Kamhawi.
Military solutions to battle IS have so far been ineffective, he says, because ideas cannot be destroyed with weapons.
Poverty, political isolation and unemployment are some of the causes of extremism, he says, and they need to be eliminated along with the militants terrorizing the region.