Islamic State in Syria execute hostage seized during Sweida attack

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Group beheads one of dozens of Druze abducted from southern province of Sweida last month, according to local sources

On 25 July, IS carried out a series of attacks in Sweida's provincial capital and several villages that left more than 250 people dead (AFP)
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Sunday 5 August 2018 9:37 UTC
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Islamic State has executed one of dozens of Druze hostages abducted from Syria's southern province of Sweida last month, a journalist in the area and an activist group have said.

IS killed the 19-year-old male student on Thursday after kidnapping more than 30 people, mostly women and children, from a village in Sweida during a deadly rampage 11 days ago, the head of the Sweida24 news website Nour Radwan said on Sunday.

Quoting relatives, Radwan, who was speaking to the AFP news agency 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, showing a young man who appeared to be sitting on the ground in a rocky landscape.

He was wearing a black T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, and his hands were tied behind his back. The video could not be independently verified.

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

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, 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, said the observatory.

It also follows the execution of 50 IS fighters and civilians in Daraa province earlier this week at the hands of rebels, the observatory said.

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

IS has lost much of the territory it once controlled in Syria after overrunning large areas of the country in 2014, but it retains a presence in the east of Syria and in the vast Badiya desert that sweeps through its south.

Largely isolated from conflict

On 25 July, IS carried out a series of attacks in Sweida's provincial capital and several villages that left more than 250 people dead, more than half of them civilians.

It was the deadliest attack ever to target the mostly government-held province and the Druze religious minority that populates it.

Speaking to Middle East Eye, some Druze have expressed anger towards Syria's government, which some believe turned a blind eye, letting the massacre take place.

During the attack, IS abducted 36 Druze women and children from a village in Sweida's east, the observatory said at the time.

Four women escaped while two had died, leaving 14 women and 16 children in IS captivity, according to the observatory.

At the time, another 17 men were unaccounted for, and it was unclear if they were also abducted.

Local sources say the families of the abductees have been sent photos and videos of their loved ones via Whatsapp.

Sweida had until last week largely remained isolated from Syria's seven-year conflict.

Druze made up three percent of Syria's population before 2011.