A group of nearly 300 Syrian Kurds, kidnapped by Islamist rebels at a checkpoint in northwestern Syria, were released after being held for several hours on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. The hostages were allegedly released in exchange for three Islamist fighters detained by Kurdish forces in the town of Afrin, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), reportedly said.
“A group of 300 people on five coaches and a mini-bus coming from Afrin were kidnapped at a checkpoint as they went to Aleppo to collect their salaries,” Newaf Khalil, a spokesman for PYD, had reportedly said earlier on Monday. Although it was not immediately clear which group had carried out the abductions, Khalil alleged that militants of Jaysh al-Islam (“The army of Islam”), believed to be allied to al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, were behind the attack.
Jabhat al-Nusra wields considerable influence in the region, including in the city of Aleppo. Last Month, the group, along with its allies, captured the city of Idlib, making the second Syrian provincial center to fall into rebel hands.
This incident is the latest in a series of abductions reported in the war-ravaged nation. In February, militants of the Islamic State group were accused of kidnapping over 200 Assyrian Christians from the Hassakeh province, and over 150 Kurdish schoolchildren in the Aleppo province last year.