Two children killed during Syrian operation to free Islamic State hostages

Islamic State militants shot and killed two children during a Syrian military operation to liberate a group of hostages who had been held since July, activists have said.

Nashaat Abu Ammar, a resident of Sweida whose wife, two sons and daughter were among those being held by IS, said his eight-year-old son Raafat was one of two boys shot dead during the Syrian army raid to free the hostages. A 13-year-old boy, Qusay, was also killed.

“They shot him in his mother’s lap,” Abu Ammar told the Associated Press by telephone from Sweida, his voice breaking with emotion.

State media reported that troops liberated 19 women and children held by IS in a military operation in central Syria, triggering celebrations in Sweida.

A man holds a young girl rescued from the Islamic State group (Sana/AP)

“My happiness is huge,” Abu Ammar said then, but his joy was crushed hours later when the hostages arrived in Sweida. Among them was the body of Raafat and his 13-year-old cousin.

His wife appeared very frail, he said, adding that the group was barely fed.

The women and children were among 30 people kidnapped by IS in Sweida on July 25 when militants ambushed residents and went on a killing spree that left at least 216 people dead.

The rare attacks in the province, populated mainly by Syria’s minority Druze, came amid a government offensive elsewhere in the country’s south.

Armed Druze men patrol their village (Hassan Ammar/AP)

The co-ordinated attacks across the province, which included several suicide bombings, shattered the calm of a region that had been largely spared from the worst of the violence of Syria’s seven-year civil war.

Since July, one woman died in IS custody while another was shot dead by the extremists. In August, a 19-year-old man was also killed in detention.

Two women and four children were freed in an exchange with the government last month.

Negotiations were expected to free the remaining hostages but the talks failed and Syrian troops launched a broad offensive against IS in southern Syria.

- Press Association

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