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US doubts Russia claim of IS hostage-taking in Syria

Putin speaking at Sochi, Russia on 18 October [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 October, 2018

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The Pentagon said Moscow's claim that the jihadist group took hundreds of hostages from a refugee camp in Syria was fake news.
The Islamic State kidnapped nearly 700 hostages in a part of Syria held by US-backed Kurdish forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, a claim met with scepticism in Washington.

Putin added that the jihadist group executed ten people and promised to kill more, according to Reuters.

The Russian leader said the hostages included Europeans and Americans, and that IS was expanding its control in eastern Syria. 

"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," Putin said.

The state-run TASS news agency said the hostages were taken on 13 October after IS attacked a refugee camp in Deir az-Zour province in Syria's east.

TASS added that about 130 families were kidnapped then, and taken to the city of Hajin.

However, the US has cast doubt on Russia's claim that IS took any hostages on 13 October. 

"While we have confirmed that there was an attack on an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp near (Deir az-Zour) last week, we have no information supporting the large number of hostages alleged by President Putin and we are skeptical of its accuracy," said Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman. 

"We are also unaware of any US nationals located in that camp," he added.

Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has long sought to characterise his brutal crackdown on opposition groups as a fight against jihadists.

Syria's war broke out in 2011, when Assad's regime responded violently to peaceful protests during the wave of Arab Spring uprisings.

More than 500,000 people have been killed in the seven-year-long war, mostly at the regime's hands.

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