A member of the SDF in Raqqa's al-Naim square after announcing the city's liberation from ISIS last week. Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has signaled it is ready to swap its ISIS prisoners in exchange for civilians kidnapped by the militant group in Suwayda, northern Syria.
“We the Syrian Democratic Forces … express and reiterate for our people in Suwayda and the families of the kidnapped our total readiness for any swapping operation of our detained Daesh [ISIS] members for the sake of freeing the kidnapped and returning them to their families,” reads a statement from the SDF issued on Sunday.
The Kurdish-led SDF has liberated swathes of northern Syria from ISIS control. Around 400 Syrian men accused of joining ISIS are being held by the SDF, officials told the New York Times last month. A further 593 men from 47 other countries are also held.
On July 25, ISIS sleeper cells attacked the governorate of Suwayda, home to a large community of the Druze religious minority.
Dozens of men, women, and children were kidnapped by the group so they could be traded for its own militants held by the Syrian regime.
On Sunday, a 19-year-old man held hostage by the group was decapitated.
ISIS still holds more than 30 Druze hostages. Suwayda officials are calling on the United Nations and international community to intervene, according to Suwayda24 news.
Arabic media reported that Russia was negotiating with ISIS for the release of the hostages.