Islamic State executes one of its dozen hostages captured from Syria's Sweida; killing prompts SDF to negotiate peace
Islamic State executed one of its dozen hostages captured from Sweida. This has prompted SDF to offer negotiations
Beirut: 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 on Monday.
The killing prompted an offer from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to exchange captured jihadists for the remaining Druze civilians.
Islamic State went on a rampage in Sweida on 25 July, 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, Islamic State 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 25 July 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. Islamic State has not claimed the kidnappings and did not publish the video on its usual channels.
Islamic State 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 Islamic State 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 Islamic State and regime forces over the transfer of Islamic State fighters from the southwest of Daraa province to the Badiya" desert, the Observatory said.
It also follows the execution of 50 Islamic State 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 Islamic State.
"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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