Islamic State militants kidnapped dozens of Kurdish civilians Tuesday in the region around Aleppo in northern Syria, in response to major losses suffered to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in recent days.
On Friday the SDF took control of part of the road between Manbij and al-Bab, cutting off the last supply line for the Islamic State base in Manbij. The SDF has recaptured more than 105 villages and farms in the vicinity of Manbij over the last two weeks, while ISIS forces remain stranded inside the city.
According to eyewitnesses to Tuesday’s assault, ISIS fighters specifically sought out houses inhabited by Kurdish families in the targeted villages around al-Bab city before breaking into them.
“They drove young people out of their homes, including men and women, and they moved them away by large trucks. We don’t know where they’ve been taken,” an eyewitness told ARA News. “ISIS fighters left behind the elderly and children, they only took the young and healthy boys and girls.”
Local analysts fear that ISIS may intend to use the hostages as human shields in its battles with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while the abducted women may be employed as sex slaves.
“ISIS extremists are now carrying out a revenge campaign against Kurds and other communities in northern Aleppo, accusing them of supporting the SDF,” said Kurdish lawyer Omran Mansour.
“We have seen this scenario before, especially with the Yezidi community at the hands of ISIS jihadis, and we would apparently see this over and over again as long as those terrorists exist in this region,” Mansour said.
Aleppo is presently the strategically most important region for the outcome of the Syrian war. All the principal armed groups fighting in Syria, including the Islamic State, have forces in that area.
In al-Bab, the Islamic State has founded new schools with the aim of indoctrinating children, and have similarly substituted all the textbooks in the public schools. Many parents now are opting to keep their children at home.
The recent violence toward the civilian population, however, is seen by observers as a sign of growing desperation among ISIS forces.
“Over more than two years of their control over Manbij, ISIS jihadis were generally careful with their behaviour towards the people in a bid to gain popular support. However, since the SDF troops started their campaign and made gains against the Islamic State, the group’s members in Manbij started punishing civilians collectively after accusing them of supporting the US-backed SDF,” media activist Nassir Taljbini told ARA News.
“They have killed hundreds of men and raped dozens of women in the past few days, especially in the western countryside of Manbij, before withdrawing from most of the villages there,” Taljbini said.
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