EX-IS cap­tive says son died in lap from mil­i­tant fire

The Citizens' Voice - - WORLD - BY AL­BERT AJI

DA­M­AS­CUS, Syria — A Syr­ian woman cap­tured by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants said her 8-year-old son died in her lap af­ter the ex­trem­ists shot him and his cousin dur­ing a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion to lib­er­ate them more than 100 days af­ter they were kid­napped.

Na­jwa Abu Am­mar, 35, was kid­napped with her two sons and daugh­ter and nearly two dozen oth­ers in July from south­ern Sweida prov­ince in a bloody at­tack on their vil­lages in which the mil­i­tants killed over 200 peo­ple.

When a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion be­gan to lib­er­ate them Thurs­day, the chil­dren pan­icked dur­ing the gun­fire, she said. Her son Rafaat and his 13-year-old cousin Qusay ran and the mil­i­tants fired at them.

“We were in the open air at the bot­tom of a val­ley as the clashes raged be­tween the army and gun men ,” she said. “When my son tried to run away, they (IS mil­i­tants) shot him. He was in my lap when he died.”

His cousin Qusay bled to death af­ter nearly five hours, Abu Am­mar said.

“I am very very sad,” she told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a tele­phone in­ter­view through a crack­ling line from her re­mote vil­lage of Sh­biki. “I am tired.”

A large fu­neral pro­ces­sion for the two chil­dren set out Satur­day from the na­tional hospi­tal in Sweida to their vil­lage, about 18 miles to the east.

“What is the sin of those in­no­cent chil­dren, who should now be in their class­rooms,” Monzer al-shoufi, a res­i­dent of Sweida who took part in the pro­ces­sion, told AP by tele­phone.

The fam­ily of Abu Am­mar suf­fered an­other loss in the kid­nap­ping — Rafaat’s grand­mother was killed on the day of the ab­duc­tions.

Nashaat Abu Am­mar, Rafaat’s fa­ther, said his mother was among those kid­napped by the mil­i­tants, who forced the el­derly, sick woman to walk about 2.5 miles. When she failed to con­tinue, they shot her dead.

The mil­i­tants kept their own in­jured who fell fight­ing with gov­ern­ment troops in the hide­outs with the hostages, an­other freed woman, Mashaal Saeed told re­porters.

“Two days ago there were airstrikes and they suf­fered a lot. Many were in­jured and killed. They buried their dead while some lost their limbs. They put them right there with us,” Saeed told re­porters in a video posted on­line. “This re­ally scared the kids.”

Saeed said they were also held in a cave, and in a desert area, fi­nally us­ing a ve­hi­cle for the hostages to sleep in it, “un­der it and next to it,” cre­at­ing a sec­ond level as sleep­ing quar­ters.

The rare at­tacks in the prov­ince pop­u­lated mainly by mi­nor­ity Druze in­cluded sev­eral sui­cide bomb­ings. The vi­o­lence on July 25 dev­as­tated the com­mu­nity and shat­tered the re­gion’s calm. At least 216 peo­ple were killed and the mil­i­tants walked away with the cap­tives.

Nashaat Abu Am­mar said about 20 of those killed were close rel­a­tives and 60 oth­ers were re­lated.

Na­jwa Abu Am­mar said the cap­tors held the group in dif­fer­ent hide­outs, in­clud­ing a camp and a cave, and once kept them in a mov­ing car for over 12 hours, the cap­tives not know­ing where they were headed.

The mil­i­tants fed them spo­rad­i­cally and beat and in­sulted the chil­dren. They didn’t tor­ture them, Abu Am­mar said, but started threat­en­ing to kill them as time passed.

At least two women and one man died in cap­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing a woman who was shot by the ex­trem­ists to pres­sure au­thor­i­ties in ne­go­ti­a­tions for the cap­tives’ re­lease.

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