A new report fears for the lives of 30 Western hostages held by al-Qaida factions in northeastern Syria, as the Geneva II peace talks take place this week.
A Daily Beast report published Wednesday claims that Syria is being used as a specialized holding territory for Western Hostages.
Legitimate distress for the safety of hostages, including 30 Western journalists and dozens of international aid workers who had been kidnapped by al-Qaida factions in the preceding months in northern Syria, are escalating amid signs that they are being transported deeper into territory under jihadist control, sources told The Daily Beast.
“The shifting of the Western captives further east is a bad sign,” a Western intelligence source told The Daily Beast. “It makes it less likely that either inadvertently or because of the actions of a more moderate rebel brigade they will be freed. It also indicates the jihadists have no intention of releasing the Westerners.”
On July 31, 2012 the State Department confirmed that terrorists from al-Qaida affiliate ISIS in Iraq were migrating into neighboring Syria to concentrate new organization efforts and for the opportunity to fight against a government led by a rival sect, the Shiite-offshoot Alawites.
Al-Qaida’s influence in the country has further complicated the U.S.’s position on the Syrian conflict.
Ambassador-at-large Daniel Benjamin predicted al-Qaida’s involvement in 2012: “Terrorists gravitate toward areas of instability and civil strife.”
The majority of al-Qaida activity in Syria occurs in the northeastern border territory, only miles from Iraq in the towns of Deir ez-Zor, al-Mayadin and al-Bakamal. Tribal leaders in those areas have sworn allegiance to ISIS and another smaller al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
Approximately 2,400 miles way in the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Switzerland, the first day of the Geneva II peace talks concluded Wednesday afternoon. The talks have been described as a series of contentious bitter exchanges between Walid Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, and Ahmad Jarba, the primary representative for the Western-backed secular Syrian rebel group called the “Syrian National Coalition.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also participated in the heated debate.
The Syrian opposition leader, alongside Kerry, claimed that President Bashar al-Assad has no legitimacy and that the Syrian ruler must step down from power for the country to have any hope for consolation.
Syria’s foreign minister tersely responded, “Only Syrians could decide Mr Assad’s fate.”
The country is solely engaged in what he called a “war against terrorist groups,” Muallem said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the UN secretary general estimate that the conflict has left more than 100,000 dead and millions displaced.