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