Middle East

ISIS expels thousands in east Syria

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the center of Mosul. (REUTERS/Social Media Website)

BEIRUT: The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has expelled more than 30,000 people from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shheil, a monitoring group said Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had "forced out" some 30,000 residents after seizing Shheil Thursday from the Al-Qaeda-affiliate Nusra Front.

Another 30,000 residents have been forced from their homes in the towns of Khasham and Tabieh Jazeera, also in eastern Deir al-Zor province, the Britain-based group said.

"Some 30,000 residents of the town of Shheil, the former stronghold of Nusra Front, have been forced out by the Islamic State," the group said.

Though both ISIS and Nusra share a jihadist ideology, the two groups have regularly clashed, with Nusra joining a coalition of armed opposition groups fighting ISIS.

ISIS has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq, declaring the land it holds to be an Islamic "caliphate," and its leader the ruler of all Muslims.

The Observatory said ISIS had prevented some 30,000 people from returning to their homes in two other towns in Deir al-Zor, Khasham and Tabieh Jazeera, which it captured in late June.

On a Facebook page, activists from Shheil said ISIS had ordered all residents to leave, and entered in armored cars and tanks "because of their fear and cowardice."

A video distributed by activists on YouTube purportedly shows mediators announcing the terms of the expulsion, saying residents are required to hand over weapons and remain out of Shheil "until (ISIS) feels it is safe."

Activists said residents feared ISIS fighters planned to loot their homes, and the Observatory said the large displacement had left thousands sleeping in the open, with food and water shortages.

Elsewhere in the region, the group said negotiations were underway over the fate of some 83,000 people living in three towns in Deir al-Zor after ISIS advances in the surrounding area.





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