Daesh kidnaps women and children in Syria’s Sweida

It is only recently that Daesh was said to have been defeated. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 July 2018
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Daesh kidnaps women and children in Syria’s Sweida

  • Daesh group kidnapped dozens of Druze women and children when it attacked their villages
  • More than 250 people killed as Daesh carries out string of attacks

BEIRUT: Daesh group kidnapped dozens of Druze women and children when it attacked their villages last week in Syria’s southern province of Sweida, a monitor said Monday.
More than 250 people were killed on Wednesday when Daesh carried out a string of suicide attacks and shootings in the provincial capital Sweida and villages to the north and east.
“At least 36 Druze women and children were abducted after the attacks,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
Four of the women had since managed to escape and another two had died, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
Another 17 men from the areas targeted by Daesh were still unaccounted for, but it was unclear if they were also kidnapped, he told AFP.
Both the Observatory and Syrian news outlet Sweida24 said 20 women and 16 children had been kidnapped.
Daesh has not claimed the kidnappings, and no details on them could be found on its propaganda channels.
Daesh declared a self-styled Islamic “caliphate” in 2014 across Syria and Iraq, but has since lost most of that territory.
It still holds small, isolated areas of Syria’s remote desert, which includes northeastern parts of Sweida, as well as pockets in the adjacent province of Daraa and further east near the border with Iraq.
Backed by Russia, Syrian troops have been waging an assault on an Daesh-held pocket of Daraa for more than a week.
Sweida, which is mostly held by the government and populated by the secretive Druze minority, has been relatively insulated from the violence of Syria’s seven-year war.
Last week’s attacks were the bloodiest ever in the province and among the deadliest waged by Daesh in Syria.


One year after Daesh defeat, Syria’s Raqqa still in fear

Updated 18 October 2018
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One year after Daesh defeat, Syria’s Raqqa still in fear

  • While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins
  • ‘The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future’

RAQQA, Syria: A year after a US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters drove the Daesh group from the northern city of Raqqa, traumatized civilians still live in fear of near-daily bombings.
“Every day we wake up to the sound of an explosion,” said resident Khaled Al-Darwish.
“We’re scared to send our children to school ... there’s no security,” he added.
The militants’ brutal rule in Raqqa was brought to an end in October 2017 after a months-long ground offensive by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces supported by air strikes from a US-led coalition.
But despite manning roadblocks at every street corner, the SDF and the city’s newly created Internal Security Forces are struggling to stem infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells.
At Raqqa’s entrance, soldiers verify drivers’ identity papers and carefully sift through lorry cargoes.
Inside the city, there are regular foot patrols and armored vehicles sit at strategic points.
Women wearing the niqab are asked to show their faces to female security members before entering public buildings.
“If there wasn’t fear about a return of Daesh, there wouldn’t be this increased military presence,” said Darwish, a father of two, speaking near the infamous Paradise Square.
It was here that Daesh carried out decapitations and other brutal punishments, earning the intersection a new name — “the roundabout of hell.”
While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins and there are near daily attacks on checkpoints and military vehicles, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Although a series of stinging defeats have cut Daesh’s so-called caliphate down to desert hideouts, the militants still manage to hit beyond the patches of ground they overtly control.
Some Raqqa residents say the city’s new security forces lack the expertise to cope.
“We are exhausted. Every day we don’t know if we will die in a bomb explosion or if we will go home safe and sound,” said Abu Younes, sitting in his supermarket near a roundabout not far from Paradise Square.
“There is no security — (the new security forces) on the roadblocks are not qualified and there is a lot of negligence,” he complained.
“There are faults that enable Daesh to infiltrate the city easily and carry out attacks.”
But despite the continued attacks, a semblance of normal life has returned to the city.
Shops have reopened and traffic has returned to major roads — albeit choked by the impromptu checkpoints.
In a public garden, children climb up a multi-colored slide and onto dilapidated swings as their mothers sit on nearby benches carefully keeping watch.
They are set amidst an apocalyptic backdrop of twisted metal and splayed balconies — the remnants of buildings torn apart by US-led coalition air raids.
Nearby, Ahmed Al-Mohammed pauses as he listens to music on his phone. Like others, he does not hide his disquiet.
“We’re scared because of the presence of Daesh members in the city,” the 28-year-old said.
“The security forces need to tighten their grip.”
Ahmed Khalaf, who commands Raqqa’s Internal Security Forces, defended the work of his men and claimed successes against the militants.
He said patrols are highly organized and that a “joint operation cell” had recently been established with coalition forces to monitor the city’s security.
“Recently we arrested four (militants) — it was a cell that took part in attacks that terrorized the city,” said Khalaf, sporting plain green fatigues.
“We are continuing our investigation to uncover the other cells,” he added.
“Daesh’s goal is to destroy the country and to not let anyone live in safety,” he said.
Security and stability are what Najla Al-Ahmed wants most for her children.
“The nightmare of Daesh follows us everywhere — whenever we try to rest, explosions start up again,” said the 36-year-old, as she shopped with her young ones.
“The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future,” she said.