Islamic State forces once again besieged a formerly-liberated town in Syria on Oct 1. ISIS retreated on Oct. 20, leaving a reported death toll of 128 civilians in their wake.
The massacre took place in Al-Qaryatayn, about 190 miles from an ISIS stronghold. ISIS militants seized the town in August 2015, before government and pro-government forces (a.k.a. "regime forces") liberated it in April 2016, The Independent reports.
ISIS is believed to have targeted citizens who returned to Al-Qaryatayn following its liberation, according to Al-Masdar News.
An Associated Press video reported by The Independent depicts the bodies of men and women lying in the streets following the retreat of the ISIS militants.
"These are people who don’t know God," said a town resident in the video, "They don’t know anything. They killed children and women with knives, they beat women, broke their arms."
Talal Barazi, governor of the nearby Homs province, said most of the people ISIS executed were government employees connected to the Baath party, Syria's ruling party.
The persons killed were executed on the charge of "communication and espionage in favor of the regime forces," according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
SOHR reports that 83 of the 128 individuals were killed within the last 48 hours of ISIS occupation. Twelve of them were reportedly killed by regime forces as they worked to retake the town.
Several people are reportedly missing, though SOHR has not estimated an exact count. It's uncertain whether these people are dead, hiding or had fled from the town during the ISIS takeover.
Some of the ISIS members are believed to have come from within the town, existing in "dormant" cells of the terrorist organization. Others came as outside forces.
The removal of ISIS members from Al-Qaryatayn was eventually overseen by Syrian regime forces and SOHR.
SOHR monitored about 200 ISIS members on their way into the desert and toward ISIS-controlled territory.
Though the revenge attack on Al-Qaryatayn was unexpected and devastating, it occurs as ISIS continues to lose control of areas in both Syria and Iraq. The long held ISIS-dominated territory of Raqqa was just ruled as free from jihadists after a four month-long battle with the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to The Independent.
ISIS has held its current territory, Deir Ezzor, Syria, since August. It is not expected to hold out against Russian air forces and regime ground forces for much longer.
Sources: The Independent, Al-Masdar News, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights / Featured Image: VOA via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia Commons, Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons