Jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda have taken hostage around 200 Kurdish civilians after violent clashes with Kurdish fighters in two villages of eastern Syria, a monitoring group said.
“Fighters of Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have seized control of Tall Aren village in Aleppo province and are laying siege to another village nearby, Tall Hassel,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“They have taken hostage around 200 civilians from the inhabitants of the two villages,” it said, without giving details on their demands.
On July 30, Syria’s main Kurdish militia issued a call to arms to battle jihadists, hours after a Kurdish leader was killed following weeks of clashes between the minority group and radical Islamists.
“We call on the Kurdish people… to step forward… anyone fit to bear arms should join the ranks of the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) and to face the assaults of these (jihadist) armed groups,” said a YPG statement.
Isa Huso, a prominent Kurdish politician, was assassinated as he left his house in the city of Qamishli, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported.
That raised to new heights Kurdish resentment against the main opposition National Coalition and mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“Despite our repeated calls to the National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army command… to date these parties have failed to take a clear position” against the radicals, the YPG statement said.
Jihadists ‘focusing to Kurds’
It said it was clear that FSA battalions were coordinating with jihadist groups. It singled out Al-Nusra Front and ISIS, saying they and the FSA “have become one side in attacking the Kurdish people”.
A Kurdish politician and member of the Syrian National Council – which is opposed to President Bashar al-Assad – said the call to arms came as no surprise.
“These obscurantist groups (Al-Nusra and ISIS) are not focusing on Homs (in central Syria) or Damascus province, where there are open battles against the regime,” Mohammed Mustafa told AFP via the Internet.
“Instead, they are assaulting areas that have fallen out of regime control and attacking the Kurds.” Opponents “accuse the Kurds of being pro-regime, when in fact it is the jihadists who are helping the regime and all those who want to see Syria’s future destroyed,” Mustafa added.
Clashes between jihadists and Kurdish fighters have raged for some two weeks, after jihadists were expelled from the key town of Ras al-Ayn on the Turkish border.
Marginalised for decades by Damascus, Kurds and their fighters have tried to ensure that neither regime forces nor the opposition takes control of their areas.