Syria: Six-year-old boy kidnapped for months reunited with family after ransom paid
A six-year-old Syrian child who was kidnapped and held hostage for over three months has been released after his family paid a hefty ransom.
In early November, Fawaz al-Qataifan was abducted in the southwestern city of Daraa while on his way to school by four people riding two motorcycles.
Earlier this month, a distressing video surfaced showing the child stripped and being beaten continuously by his captors. Fawaz can be heard screaming, “For God’s sake, don’t hit me.”
His kidnappers demanded a ransom fee of 400 million Syrian pounds (around $160,000).
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that after receiving that amount during an exchange on Saturday, the captors left the child in a pharmacy in the city of Nawa, in the countryside of Daraa.
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Videos on social media showed the child at home being embraced by his family.
Fawaz describes beatings
The child has since recounted his brutal ordeal to local media.
“They brought a rope and lifted me on the shed, and there was a man on top, and after they pulled me up, they started beating me with a leather belt,” he told Al-Watan in a video interview.
"Then they brought a pistol and a gun, and I put the pistol in my head and the gun in my lap, and I started telling my family, 'Do you want to take me or kill me?'"
He described being beaten several times by different individuals and being filmed, in order to threaten his family.
Renowned Syrian actor Abdul Hakim Qutaifan, a distant family member, shared a message on Facebook on Saturday night.
“Finally, after a bitter, hard, long and dangerous wait, the innocent angel is back to the embrace of his warm family,” he said.
The 63-year-old actor and artist is a vocal critic of Syria’s government and a supporter of the revolution, currently living as a refugee in Germany.
“Deep thanks, gratitude, and love to all who shared with us the cruelty, concern and oppression of the moments, hours, days and months in which Fawaz was absent from his family at the hands of the murderers of lowly criminals,” Qutaifan said.
Fawaz’s ordeal had gripped Arab social media, with solidarity messages posted widely online. Several users linked the timing with five-year-old Rayan, a Moroccan child who died after being stuck down a water well for five days.
‘Hundreds of children still abducted’
On Saturday evening, the Syrian interior ministry posted a picture on Facebook of Fawaz with Daraa governorate’s police chief Dirar al-Dandal.
Speaking to journalists, Dandal explained that four days earlier, authorities had tracked the phone number the kidnappers had been using. They located and arrested four individuals in a village near Khirbet Ghazaleh on the outskirts of Daraa.
He said that the gang of kidnappers had arranged to release the boy on two separate occasions following the arrests, but failed to show up.
On Saturday, the boy was finally released shortly after the ransom was paid. Dandal said local police officers did not intervene during the exchange “in order to save the child's life”. He added that authorities would continue to pursue the remaining suspects.
The interior ministry quoted Fawaz’s father as saying: “We hope that our homeland will remain fine and peaceful under the leadership of the President Bashar Al-Assad and we thank him for his great interest in the issue.”
However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released a statement on Sunday stating that hundreds of children remain abducted in the country, with their fate unknown and with little media attention.
“We… renew our call for an immediate release of the kidnapped people, whether children, women and men and call on the international society to quickly disclose their fate and expose all the involved parties in the crimes of abduction,” it said.
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