Syria war: Army frees 19 IS hostages – state media

A picture released by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on 8 November 2018 allegedly shows a group of rescued women and children Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian army has freed 19 women and children held hostage since July by so-called Islamic State, state media say.

They say the captives were rescued when troops launched an operation north-east of the desert city of Palmyra.

The hostages were seized during an IS attack in the southern Suweida region. More than 200 people were killed.

Suweida is a stronghold of the Druze religious minority, and the captives were drawn from this community.

Thursday’s reports in the state media have not been independently confirmed.

There were originally more than 30 hostages. Six were freed last month, others escaped and at least one was reportedly killed by IS militants.

The Druze are the third-largest religious minority in Syria and are considered to be heretics by IS jihadists.

Over the past year, IS fighters have lost most of the land they once held across Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

At the peak of the group’s power, about 10 million people lived in IS-controlled areas, but the US military said earlier this year that the jihadists had been ousted from 98% of their former territory.

In Syria, the group is still present in small pockets in the south and east.

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