Fri 17 Aug 2018

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Videotapes of Hostages Are Back to the Syrian Forefront

Alessandro Sandrini, Italian Journalist kept as a hostage in Syria (Internet)

Alessandro Sandrini, Italian Journalist kept as a hostage in Syria (Internet)

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News websites and social media accounts have been circulating videotapes of tow foreign men kept as hostages for years in “unidentified area” in Northern Syria. The two men were filmed while kneeling in orange outfits, in a manner emulating the “Islamic States’” style of filming captures being executed. The tapes did not allude to the entity responsible for “their imprisonment.”

The tow videotapes triggered a massive wave of controversy as who is the entity responsible for publishing the recordings or the justification to do so, at a time where the destiny of Northern Syria is yet unknown. Some have considered it as providing the Syrian regime with new reasons to conduct a military operation against Idlib on the pretext that there are “extremist groups” in the area.

A Cause Forgotten for Years

The first recording features the Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was abducted in Syria in the second half of 2015. According to Japanese media outlets, the Tokyo government believes that “terrorists” are responsible for holding him a captive.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary mentioned that the man in the recording is the Japanese Jumpei Yasuda and that he is a “free journalist,” as quoted by “Reuters” agency.

Yasuda appears in an orange outfit, kneeling and surrounded with face-covered men. In the video, published by several websites, he said (in Japanese): “My name is Omar. I am south Korean. Today is July 25, 2018. I am in a dire state, please help me immediately.”

The second video features the Italian journalist Alessandro Sandrini, whose trace was lost in Turkey, early 2016.

The Italian official TV published the video in which the journalist appeared asking his country’s authority to release him. The TV pointed out that  the 32 years old Sandrini “is detained by an armed group in Syria, which asks for a ransom to let him out.”

Activists stressed that news about the journalists were entirely absent in the past a few years, despite unconfirmed leaks of secret negotiations conducted with “jihadist factions” in Northern Syria to release the captives in return for large amounts of money.

A Free of Charge Service Offered to the Syrian Regime

Publishing the recordings, enticed various concerns among activists in Northern Syria, including Sulayman al-Taha, who told Enab Baladi that publishing the videos “triggers questions about the timing and the real beneficiaries of their spread.”

Al-Taha added: “Publishing the videos will serve the regime’s allegations of the presence of terrorism in the areas controlled by the opposition faction throughout Northern Syria and Idlib particularly,” pointing that a certain entity is “inciting the international mainstream against some of the opposition factions in Idlib governorate.”

The video’s spread corresponded to the “Islamic State’s” adoption of abduction operations in Idlib, amidst the local factions’ attempt at persecuting ISIS-affiliate sleeper cells.

“Such recordings will help in confusing the “Islamic State” with the rest of the factions. Accordingly, the regime will use them to justify its atrocities against the civilians,” Al-Taha added.

Northern Syria is receiving repeated threats from the Syrian regime and its allies that Idlib “is the regime’s forces’ next destination after they end their operations in Southern Syria.” On top of these threats are those issued by Bashar Al-Assad, the head of the Syrian regime, who stressed that regaining control over Idlib “is the Syrian regime’s next goal.”

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