ISIS militants have released 25 hostages as they retreated from a town in Homs province, but 19 other people are still being held captive. These individuals are from Qaryatayn, a predominantly Christian town, although it is unknown whether these hostages are also Christian. However, ISIS’s brutality towards Christians is well documented and the militants have been known to use religious minorities as human shields during retreats. Just last week, government forces regained control of Qaryatayn and discovered a brutal massacre that ISIS left in its wake.
10/30/2017 Syria (Miami Herald) – A Syrian government official says Islamic State militants have released 25 apparent hostages as they retreated from a town in the central Homs province.
Homs Governor Talal Barazi tells The Associated Press Sunday there are another 19 people originally from Qaryatayn still held by IS.
Government forces and allied troops regained control of Qaryatayn last week, chasing the militants out after they were held for three weeks. The militants left a trail of blood behind them, killing at least 70 residents. Bodies were found strewn in the streets and in ditches. At the time, activists said more remain unaccounted for.
It was not immediately clear why the militants released the 25 hostages.
Syrian activists say at least 11 civilians have been killed in government bombings of a rebel-held enclave north of the capital Damascus.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Eastern Ghouta Media Center say those killed in the Saqba and Hamouriyah districts include two women, one child and a media activist. The Eastern Ghouta Media center said the media activist worked for the local al-Jisr TV.
Eastern Ghouta, north of Damascus, is part of a de-escalation zone declared earlier this year in Syria. But violence amid a tight government siege has persisted in the area, which has faced intense government shelling for four years.
Images of starving children and adults emerged from the Ghouta suburbs, one of the hubs of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule, prompting U.N. officials to say the area is facing a humanitarian crisis.
Syria’s state TV also reported Sunday that one person has been killed and several others injured in east Damascus after shells fired from rebel-held areas landed there.