Middle East

Hundreds of Kurds in Syria flee after jihadist threat: NGO

Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters take positions as they aim their weapons inside a room at the justice palace in the old city of Aleppo, after the FSA claimed to have taken control of it from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad March 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Rami Zayat)

BEIRUT: Some 600 Kurdish residents of villages in Syria's Raqa province have fled after an ultimatum from the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an NGO said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 600 Kurds from the villages of Tal Akhdar, Tal Fandar and the town of Tal Abyad had abandoned their homes after warnings from ISIL.

The NGO said ISIL had also detained dozens of Kurds in the area, releasing them with a warning to leave their village in the northern province, where the jihadist group has a strong presence.

It said more than 500 had entered Turkey, with others fleeing to the nearby town of Ain al-Arab.

ISIL has fought bloody battles against Syria's Kurds, who have otherwise largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, focusing on building autonomy in majority Kurdish areas.

It considers them infidels and has also sought to take control of oil resources in Kurdish areas.

The jihadists' stronghold is in Raqa's provincial capital of the same name, the only capital to fall from regime hands.

ISIL has been consolidating its hold in the province and its capital since earlier this year when it was forced to withdraw from other parts of rebel-held territory when moderate and Islamist opposition groups turned against it.

The group, which began in neighbouring Iraq, is accused by the opposition of carrying out abuses against civilians and rival rebels and imposing its harsh interpretation of Islam by force.





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