ISIS releases 93 kidnapped as HRW says group mistreated Kurdish children

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A Kurdish refugee boy stands during a rainy day at the Rojova Camp, in Suruc, a rural district of Sanliurfa Province, on October 30, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Bulent Kilic)

Published Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has released 93 Syrian Kurds it captured in February as they made their way from northern Syria to neighboring Iraq, a group monitoring the conflict said on Tuesday.

ISIS seized around 100 people, accusing them of being members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has opposed the militants, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It was not immediately clear why they were released.

The release comes as a Human Rights Watch report said on Tuesday that ISIS militants in Syria forced children as young as 14 to watch videos of beheadings and beat them with cables during six months of captivity.

The militants abducted a group of children on May 29 as they returned to the Syrian town of Kobane after taking school exams in the city of Aleppo. It freed the final 25 hostages on October 29.

ISIS has captured swathes of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic caliphate in territories under its control. Its fighters have killed or driven away thousands who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam.

Kobane, a predominantly Kurdish town on the Syrian border with Turkey, has been besieged by ISIS militants for more than a month despite US-led airstrikes meant to displace them.

The abuse of more than 150 children, some held as long as six months, amounted to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said, citing testimony from interviews with four boys among the group.

The children described being forced to pray five times a day and undergoing intense religious instruction, as well as being forced to watch videos of ISIS in combat and beheading captives, the New York-based group said.

"Those who didn't conform to the program were beaten. They beat us with a green hose or a thick cable with wire running through it. They also beat the soles of our feet," it quoted one boy as saying.

"They sometimes found excuses to beat us for no reason … They made us learn verses of the Quran and beat those who didn't manage to learn them."

The boys said they were given no reason for their release other than that their religious education was now over. The last children to be let go were now seeking shelter in Turkey, the rights group said.

Those from families with members fighting with the Kurdish militia, called YPG, which has been defending Kobane, were singled out for abuse, the children said.

Their captors, who came from Syria, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, "told them to give them the addresses of their families, cousins, uncles, saying, 'When we go to Kobane, we will get them and cut them up.' They saw the YPG as infidels," one 15-year-old boy told Human Rights Watch.

ISIS is thought to hold hundreds in captivity.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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