IS militants abduct scores of civilians in eastern Syria

FILE - In this Thursday, July 27, 2017, a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter runs in front of a damaged building as he crosses a street on the front line, in Raqqa city, Syria. With Islamic State's near total defeat on the battle field, the extremist group has reverted to what it was before its spectacular series of conquests in 2014 _ a shadowy terror network that targets vulnerable civilian populations and exploits state weaknesses to incite on sectarian strife. But a recent surge in false claims of responsibility for attacks also signals that the group is struggling to stay relevant after losing its proto-state and its dominance of the international news agenda. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group stormed a settlement for displaced people in eastern Syria and abducted scores of civilians in the latest attack by the extremists on civilians, a U.S.-backed Syrian force and a war monitor said on Saturday.

The area in Syria’s eastern Deir el-Zour province has been witnessing days of intense clashes between IS and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid bad weather and low visibility.

The SDF said in a statement that the fighting on Friday in the Hajin camp for the displaced left 20 IS gunmen and “several” SDF fighters dead. It added that IS gunmen seized civilians by force and took them to areas in the last pocket of territory they control in the region.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s war, said as many as 130 families were abducted by the extremists. The Observatory warned that IS might kill them.

The Observatory said the families are mostly made up of foreign women, including widows of IS members who had been killed earlier in the Syrian war.

Since IS lost most of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq over the past two years, the extremists have been resorting to attacks on civilians to show that they are still effective.

The area of Friday’s attack is on the edge of the last pocket held by IS in Syria. Intense fighting has been ongoing on the area since Wednesday, amid a sand storm. Not counting the dead in the camp for the displaced, the Observatory said the fighting in the area in the past three days killed 37 SDF fighters and 58 IS gunmen.

The SDF launched an offensive to regain control of the IS-held pockets of territory last month.

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