Troops free women, chil­dren held by IS

The Beacon Herald - - WORLD NEWS - AL­BERT AJI

DA­M­AS­CUS, Syria — Syr­ian troops have lib­er­ated 19 women and chil­dren hostages held by Is­lamic State since July in a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in the coun­try’s cen­tre, end­ing a cri­sis that has stunned Syria’s Druze mi­nor­ity, state me­dia re­ported Thurs­day.

SANA news agency said in its re­port that the oper­a­tion oc­curred in the Hamima area east of the his­toric town of Palmyra. It said all Is­lamic State fight­ers in the area where the hostages were held have been killed.

The Suwayda 24 ac­tivist col­lec­tive quoted lo­cal of­fi­cials as say­ing the women and chil­dren held by Is­lamic State have all been freed.

The 19 women and chil­dren were among 30 peo­ple kid­napped by Is­lamic State in the south­ern prov­ince of Sweida on July 25 when they car­ried out a raid that left at least 216 peo­ple dead.

The rare at­tacks in Sweida, pop­u­lated mainly by Syria’s mi­nor­ity Druze, came amid a govern­ment of­fen­sive else­where in the coun­try’s south. The co-or­di­nated at­tacks across the prov­ince, which in­cluded sev­eral sui­cide bomb­ings, shat­tered the calm of a re­gion that had been largely spared from the worst of the vi­o­lence of Syria’s seven-year long civil war.

“We are liv­ing the joy of vic­tory in Syria,” Druze cleric Sheikh Kameel Nasr told Syr­ian state TV. “It is re­gret­table to see the bru­tal­ity of Daesh” he added, us­ing an Ara­bic term to re­fer to Is­lamic State.

Since July, one woman died in Is­lamic State cus­tody while an­other was shot dead by the ex­trem­ists. In Au­gust, a 19-year-old man was also killed in de­ten­tion.

Six other hostages, two women and four chil­dren, were freed in an ex­change with the govern­ment last month. Ne­go­ti­a­tions were ex­pected to free the re­main­ing hostages but af­ter the talks failed, Syr­ian troops launched a broad of­fen­sive against Is­lamic State in south­ern Syria.

Else­where in Syria, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists and paramedics re­ported that two blasts in rebel-held parts of north­ern Syria have in­flicted ca­su­al­ties.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the first ex­plo­sion oc­curred in the north­ern town of Azaz wound­ing six chil­dren while the op­po­si­tion’s Syr­ian Civil De­fence said four were wounded in­clud­ing three chil­dren.

SANA VIA GETTY IM­AGES

A Syr­ian sol­dier of­fers a drink to a girl amongst a group of Druze women and chil­dren who ab­ducted in July from the south­ern prov­ince of Sweida by Is­lamic State, fol­low­ing their re­lease at a undis­closed lo­ca­tion.

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