IS kills one of dozens of hostages in southern Syria

The Islamic State jihadist group has executed one of dozens of Druze hostages abducted from Syria’s southern province of Sweida last week, a journalist in the area and a monitor said today.

The killing prompted an offer from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to exchange captured jihadists for the remaining Druze civilians.

IS went on a rampage in Sweida on July 25, killing more than 250 people — mostly civilians – in the deadliest attack ever to target the mostly government-held province and its Druze religious minority.

The jihadists also kidnapped more than 30 people, most of them women and children, from a village in the province, which had previously remained largely isolated from Syria’s seven-year civil war.

On Thursday, IS killed a 19-year-old male student who was among the hostages, the head of the Sweida24 news website Nour Radwan told AFP.

Quoting relatives, Radwan, who was speaking from Sweida, said the young man was taken from the village of Al-Shabki on July 25 along with his mother.

His family received two videos, the first showing him being decapitated and the second of him speaking before being killed as well as images of his body after his death, Radwan said.

Sweida24 posted online part of a second video, seen by AFP, showing a bearded young man who appeared to be sitting on the ground in a landscape of grey rocks.

He is wearing a black T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, and his hands are tied behind his back.

The video could not be independently verified.

IS has not claimed the kidnappings and did not publish the video on its usual channels.

IS jihadists have lost much of the territory they once controlled in Syria after overrunning large swathes of it in 2014, but they retain a presence in the east of the country and in the country’s vast Badiya desert.

The regime has been fighting in recent weeks to expel IS fighters from a patch of the neighbouring province of Daraa.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the young man’s execution was the first since the kidnappings.

The execution came “after the failure of talks between IS and regime forces over the transfer of IS fighters from the southwest of Daraa province to the Badiya” desert, the Observatory said.

It also follows the execution of 50 IS fighters and civilians in Daraa province earlier in the week at the hands of rebels, according to the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

Stepping in with an offer on Sunday, the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, told AFP that it was “fully prepared” to exchange jihadists for the Sweida civilians.

“We assure our people in the town of Sweida and the families of the hostages that we are fully prepared for any exchange with Daesh,” SDF spokesman Redur Khalil told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

“This initiative does not replace Russia’s mediation,” he said.

On Friday, a top Druze religious leader said Syrian regime ally Russia was in talks with the jihadists over the release of those abducted in Sweida.


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