ISIS militants have reportedly kidnapped around 700 people from a refugee camp in eastern Syria, vowing to ‘kill ten hostages every day’ until its demands are met.
The news was announced by Russian President Vladamir Putin, who also noted that there were Americans among those seized. “They have issued ultimatums, specific demands and warned that if these ultimatums are not met, they will execute 10 people every day. The day before yesterday, they executed 10 people,” Mr Putin told the Valdai discussion forum in Sochi, as reported by the Strait Times.
Roughly 700 hostages were reportedly taken in Syria’s Deir-al Zor province after ISIS attacked a refugee camp in an area controlled by US-backed rebel forces on October 13.
But Washington has since played down Mr. Putin’s comments.
“While we have confirmed that there was an attack on an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp near (Deir-al Zor) last week, we have no information supporting the large number of hostages alleged by President Putin and we are skeptical of its accuracy,” Pentagon spokesman, Commander Sean Robertson, said in a statement.
He added: “We are also unaware of any US nationals located in that camp.”
A representative of The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also contested the details, noting that the number of people held by ISIS was more likely to be around the 300 mark. “The real number of abductees held by the ‘Islamic State’ organization is estimated by 300 persons including 90 women,” the organization stated, according to the Evening Standard.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that its fighters had engaged in a battle against ISIS fighters during which it killed 20 members of the group. The SDF confirmed that ISIS was seeking to attack “the camp for the displaced people.”
“Special units of our forces carried out an urgent evacuation of civilians from the camp to areas away from the engagements field,” the predominantly Kurdish military force said in a statement on the situation.
In contrast, during a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press, President Trump declared that ISIS had been completely “defeated.”
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) October 18, 2018
But the Pentagon was a little less sure of itself. “Overall, ISIS is territorially defeated, but until we achieve an enduring defeat, we will continue to fight,” Army Col. Sean J. Ryan, a spokesman for US anti-ISIS military operations, said at the Pentagon Tuesday.
Ryan added Iraq’s military and federal police continue to fight “to contain and eliminate ISIS, who still pose a threat.”
As for Syria, Ryan said that “the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to clear the last stronghold of ISIS resistance in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” adding that “the SDF is making gains despite booby-trapped buildings, IEDs, and repeated attacks.”
On Thursday, the Daily Mail reported that ISIS had released pictures of fighters executing so-called Syrian “spies” in the same region where the mass kidnapping is reported to have taken place. Five captives, thought to be from the SDF, can be seen kneeling known before being shot in the head.