ISIS has seized 700 hostages in Syria: Putin

SOCHI • Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have seized nearly 700 hostages in a part of Syria controlled by US-backed forces and executed some of them, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Speaking in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Mr Putin on Thursday said the hostages included several American and European nationals, adding that ISIS was expanding its control in territory on the left bank of the River Euphrates held by US and US-backed forces.

He did not specify what the militants' demands were. "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," he told the Valdai discussion forum.

The Tass news agency reported on Wednesday that ISIS militants had taken around 700 hostages in eastern Syria's Deir-al Zor province after attacking a refugee camp in an area controlled by US-backed forces on Oct 13. Tass said the militants had kidnapped about 130 families and taken them south to Hajin city.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been locked in clashes for over a month with ISIS holdouts in Hajin and surrounding villages. SDF estimates 3,000 militants are defending the area.

In Washington, the US military has cast doubt on Mr Putin's claims.

"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 sceptical of its accuracy," Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said. "We are also unaware of any US nationals located in that camp."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'ISIS has seized 700 hostages in Syria: Putin'. Print Edition | Subscribe