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Syria army frees Druze hostages from IS


AFP
Damascus
Syria said on Thursday it had freed all 19 remaining Druze women and children abducted in July by the Islamic State group from the southern province of Sweida.
Relatives gathered in their home region to greet those released after over three months of gruelling captivity during which at least two hostages were killed.
State media said the mass liberation was the result of a military operation but other sources insisted the 15-week hostage ordeal was ended thanks to a prisoner swap agreement.
The army"clashed directly with the IS terrorist organisation, which had abducted women and children from the Sweida province", state news agency SANA said.
Government troops"were able to liberate all the 19 hostages... and kill the terrorist kidnappers", it added.
Syrian television broadcast images of veiled women, boys and at least one girl surrounded by men in military uniforms near a white pick-up truck in a desert landscape.
It said the images were broadcast from the desert near the ancient city of Palmyra in the centre of the country.
In Sweida, Jawdat Abu Omar was in his car rushing to the provincial capital to see his wife, eight-year-old daughter Shahad and 13-year-old son Qusay.
"I can't even describe how I'm feeling. I've never felt this happy in my life," he told AFP over the phone.
"We'll be waiting for them," he said.

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