Islamic State releases six of 27 Druze hostages held in southern Syria

The Islamic State group has released six of 27 Druze hostages it seized during a deadly July attack in Syria’s Sweida province in exchange for a prisoner swap and ransom, a monitor said Saturday.

“Two women and four children from the province of Sweida were released last night,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor group, told AFP.

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He added that the releases were the “first wave” and part of an agreement sealed with the Syrian government to exchange all the hostages for “60 Islamic State prisoners held by the regime and a ransom of $27 million.”

The jihadist group abducted around 30 people — mostly women and children from Sweida in late July during the deadliest attack on Syria’s Druze community of the seven-year civil war.

During the coordinated assaults on July 25, IS waged a series of suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings that left more than 250 people dead across the southwestern province, most of them civilians.

Sweida province is the heartland of the country’s Druze minority, which made up around three percent of Syria’s pre-war population — or around 700,000 people.

IS executed a 19-year-old male student among the captives in August and then a 25-year-old female captive in early October. The group said a 65-year- old female captive also died from illness.

Families of those kidnapped held protests to demand action by the Syrian government to free them.

Negotiations between the government’s Russian ally and the jihadists for the release of the captives had stalled.

Government forces have battled IS in the volcanic plateau of Tulul al-Safa in the east of the province since the July attack.

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