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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

ISIL abduct 900 Kurdish civilians in retaliation for attack on Manbij

ISIL abductions are in retaliation for loss of Manbij
A bridge destroyed by ISIL as the US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters advances into Manbij on June 23, 2016. Delil Souleiman / AFP
A bridge destroyed by ISIL as the US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters advances into Manbij on June 23, 2016. Delil Souleiman / AFP

BEIRUT // ISIL militants have abducted some 900 Kurds in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo over the past three weeks amid fierce fighting for control of a nearby ISIL stronghold. The abductions began shortly after the predominantly Kurdish and US-backed Syria Democratic Forces began an offensive on May 31 to capture the IS stronghold of Manbij from the extremists. Mass kidnapping is a known tactic used by the extremists in parts of Syria they control. Christians and Kurds have been the main targets in the past.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIL fighters stormed homes in several villages they control near Al-Bab, including Arab, Qabaseen and Nairabiyeh, and took with them mostly men. SDF spokesman Sherfan Darwish said whole families were among the 900 kidnapped civilians and any male over the age was sent to the front line. Others were forced to dig trenches or jailed. Mr Darwish said the abductions were a reprisal for the SDF offensive on the town of Manbij, which is of great importance to ISIL.

“Whenever Daesh is defeated, they retaliate against civilians,” he said.

In 2014, ISIL abducted nearly 200 Kurdish students near Manbij as they were en route from the Kurdish town of Kobani near the Syrian-Turkish border to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, the provincial capital, to take their exams. Most were later released.

In February 2015, ISIL kidnapped more than 200 Christians from northeastern Syria. The Christians were released over a period of a year, after IS collected millions of dollars in ransom.

Opposition activists reported clashes inside Manbij on Friday and air strikes by the US-led coalition.

Since the offensive to take Manbij began last month, SDF fighters have captured dozens of villages and farms near the town, which is now surrounded from all side as SDF forces slowly push into Manbij.

The town lies along the only IS supply line between the Turkish border and the IS extremist group’s self-styled capital, Raqqa. If Manbij is captured, it will be the biggest strategic defeat for IS in Syria since July 2015, when it lost the border town of Tal Abyad.

The battle of Manbij has so far claimed the lives of 81 SDF fighters and 463 extremists, according to the Observatory

* Associated Press