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'IS' frees hundreds of civilians in Syria

A human rights watchdog has said "Islamic State" terrorists released 270 abducted civilians. The militants have launched a new campaign in the east of Syria aimed at taking full control of the city of Deir al-Zour.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists had released 270 of the 400 civilians they had kidnapped earlier in the week near the town of Deir al-Zour. According to the Britain-based Observatory, most of the released prisoners were children under 14, men over 55 and women.

"We fear for the safety of the remaining group of prisoners; and we still do not know for sure if there are still women in captivity," Observatory leader Rami Abdel-Rahman told German news agency DPA.

Elaborating in a second interview with AFP news agency, Abdel-Rahman said the remaining captives would be questioned, and "if IS sees that they have no ties to the Syrian government, they will take a religious course and will be released."

Over the weekend, "IS" began a multifaceted campaign to reinforce its hold on Deir al-Zour in the east of Syria and the surrounding area. Militants entered the government-held village of al-Baghaliyeh, and abducted 400 citizens. Some 50 more have been taken in the past 24 hours, the Observatory said, mostly men who are either civilians or fighters for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"IS" now controls 60 percent of Deir al-Zour, and has continued unabated with suicide attacks on government targets since the weekend.

More than 250,000 people have lost their lives as a result of the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011, according to UN figures. Recent weeks have seen an intensified air campaign in the country on the part of a US-led coalition and Russia, which are operating separately due to deeply held difference in opinion about the future of Assad in the country.

es/sms (AFP, dpa)

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