Introduction: Between December 2, 2018 and January 8, 2019, seven civilians were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Idlib province. Two of the kidnapped were killed; a child and a media activist were released, while an unknown fate awaits the remaining three to the date this news was written.
The field researcher of Syrians for Truth and Justice/STJ in Idlib province documented the following cases of kidnapping:
- Kidnappings where the fate of abductees is yet unknown
On Sunday, December 2, 2018, on board of three cars, a group of 20 masked gunmen blocked the way of Dr. Abdo Hussain Najar, who works in a medical center in the village of Deir Hassan, and led him to an unknown destination.
On January 8, 2019, a masked group of gunmen raided an olive mill, near the city of Idlib and kidnapped the owner, Zakaraya al-Qasem, born in the town of Ein Shib, and led him to an unknown destination.
On the same day, a group of gunmen in the city of Maarrat al-Nu'man kidnapped Khalaf Hassan Abu Dmagh, a civilian from the city of Al-Dana, whose fate is yet unknown.
It is worth mentioning that, on the three cases, the abductees’ relatives were not contacted and a ransom was not demanded to the date this news was written.
- Abductees who have been released
On January 7, 2019, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Hamid Samir Bazarah, a 14-year-old boy, whose father works in poultry in the village of Koreen. The next day, the boy was found near his house, bearing signs of beating, while the kidnappers remain unknown.
Unidentified gunmen have also kidnapped Abdulghani Aryan, a media activist from the city of Salqin, Idlib, on January 3, 2019. He was released the next day. The activist’s brother narrated the incident:
“On January 3, 2019, around 9pm, a Pickup truck and a Van pulled off in front of our house, in the center of the city of Salqin. Masked gunmen stepped out. They asked for my brother Abdulghani and arrested him. I tried hard to identify their identity or the side to which they work, but it was to no avail. We had a fight and yelled at each other. And then, one of the gunmen hit me with the butt of the rifle, and they arrested my brother. On the same day, we contacted the court at the town and elements of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham/HTS, who are in control of the city, and recounted the incident. We asked them if they were responsible for the arrest; they answered with a no and that they did not know Abdulghani’s whereabouts. Nothing happened till the evening of the next day, when we found my brother, ditched in front of the house, handcuffed and showing the signs of a hard beating. We took him to the hospital. The doctor told us that he was subjected to beating with sharp tools, some of which dislocated his right shoulder and caused him other injuries. My brother told me that he was subjected to sever beatings, and he failed to know neither the identity of the group nor the reason for what happened.”
- Abductees killed by Kidnappers
A gang of kidnappers executed an abductee they held captive when his relatives did not pay the demanded ransom. On December 9, 2018, Marwan Hamadi al-Hood was executed, a civilian from the village of Mjalia in the Mount Zāwiya, Idlib, and the owner of an olive mill, who the gang kidnapped on November 20, 2018.
Similarly, an unidentified group of gunmen kidnapped Hamdou Abdulqader al-Omar, a worker at “People in Need” organization. He was killed on January 5, 2019, though his family had paid a ransom of $40,000. His body was found somewhere near the city of Atarib, Aleppo.
Between August and September 2018, STJ has recoded no less than 25 cases of kidnapping in Idlib province and northern rural Hama, given the lack of accountability and the intensifying rampant insecurity.