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Syrian Druze demand government action for relatives abducted by Islamic State group Open in fullscreen

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Syrian Druze demand government action for relatives abducted by Islamic State group

IS carried out its deadliest attack on Syria's Druze in July [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 October, 2018

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Relatives of 27 people kidnapped by the Islamic State group have demanded that Syria's government take action to free them.

Families of Syrian Druze hostages held by the Islamic State group on Friday gathered at a government building to demand that the regime take action to free them.

The protesters conducted a sit-in at the government's provincial headquarters in the southwestern city of Suweidah, according to witnesses.

"Those who are related to them are always here, and there are large numbers that come in solidarity," one protester told AFP, though adding that the numbers were lower than other days.

"We're demanding the return of the hostages. That's not a tall order," he said.

In July, IS militants abducted around 30 people from the southwestern province of Sweida in the deadliest attack on Syria's Druze community of Syria's seven-year civil war.

Family members of the victims began protesting on Wednesday, after learning that IS had executed a 25-year-old female captive, Nour Radwan, the head of news website Sweida24, told AFP.

They began protesting to "demand that the government intervene immediately to free the hostages", he said.

Negotiations between the regime's Russian ally and the militants for the release of the Druze captives had stalled, but Radwan said they resumed on the first day of the sit-in.

Footage of the protest on Thursday published online by Sweida24 showed a few dozen men and women in front of the provincial headquarters.

They gathered on the building's front steps around neatly lined up photographs of the missing, and a sign that said: "We demand the hostages be returned alive."

The IS group have reportedly demanded $1 million in ransom for each of the 27 hostages, as well as an end to the government's offensive against them in Tulul al-Safa and the release of 48 wives of IS fighters from government custody.

Government forces have battled IS in the volcanic plateau of Tulul al-Safa in the east of the province since the July attack.

In the 25 July attack, IS killed more than 250 people, most of them civilians, in a wave of suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings across Sweida province.

They kidnapped around 30 people - mostly women and children - at the same time.

In August, the militants executed a 19-year-old male student among the captives.

A 65-year-old Syrian woman among the hostages also died, with her IS captors telling negotiators she had succumbed to an illness.

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