Kurdish officials say al-Qaeda-linked militants have kidnapped nearly 300 Kurdish civilians at a checkpoint in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
The hostages were nabbed by militants from the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, near the town of al-Dana in Idlib, on Monday.
“A group of 300 people on five coaches and a mini-bus coming from Afrin [city] were kidnapped at a checkpoint as they went to Aleppo to collect their salaries,” said Newaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), AFP reported.
The Britain-based so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the Kurds’ kidnapping but said it was not immediately clear how many people were taken.
The observatory’s director, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said the captors have demanded the release of three men being held in Afrin on the charge of unauthorized digging for archaeological artifacts.
However, PYD officials or residents of Afrin did not immediately confirm the demands.
Idlib has been the epicenter of deadly fighting between government troops and militants for months. It is located near the strategically significant main highway that links Damascus to the key northern city of Aleppo.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Yacoub El Hillo said on March 30 that tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced after al-Qaeda-linked terrorists seized the city of Idlib from government troops.
Idlib is Syria’s second provincial capital to fall into the hands of militants following the fall of the northern city of Raqqah in March 2013.
The al-Nusra Front is a terrorist group which is responsible for heinous acts of terror against innocent civilians in Syria.
The Arab country is in its fifth year of a foreign-sponsored conflict that has so far claimed the lives of more than 215,000 people and left trails of massive destruction.