BEIRUT — The group that calls itself the Islamic State attacked several government-held villages in central Syria on Thursday, capturing at least one of them in violence that left 52 people dead, including more than two dozen women and children, some of whom were beheaded, state media and a monitoring group said.
The attack in the central Hama province targeted villages where most residents belong to the Ismaili branch of Shi’ite Islam, raising fears the extremists might massacre them, as they have in other places.
The villages are located near Salamiyeh and the highway that links Damascus to the northern city of Aleppo.
The attacks come as government forces are on the offensive in other parts of Syria, mostly in the province of Aleppo and the central Homs region. US-backed and Kurdish-led forces are meanwhile marching toward the extremists’ de-facto capital of Raqqa.
The head of the National Hospital in Salamiyeh, Dr. Noufal Safar, said the hospital received 52 bodies, including 11 women and 17 children. He said some of them were beheaded and others had their limbs amputated.