Second IS Druze hostage dies
BEIRUT - A second hostage has died after being abducted by the Islamic State group in southern Syria last month, a journalist in the area and a monitor said Thursday.
The 65-year-old Syrian woman was among more than 30 people seized by IS two weeks ago as it unleashed a violent attack against the Druze minority of Sweida province.
IS has been in talks with Syria's government and its ally Russia to swap the hostages for jihadists held by the regime.
The ultra-conservative group beheaded one of them, a 19-year-old male student, last week.
On Thursday, the negotiating delegation received images showing the lifeless body of a second hostage, said Nour Radwan, who heads the Sweida24 news outlet.
"After cutting off communication for several days, IS corresponded with the negotiating delegation of Sweida to tell them she died of illness," Radwan said.
Relatives told Radwan the woman suffered from heart problems and diabetes, but they had no way of verifying if they had caused her death.
There is little information on what conditions the hostages are being kept in, including whether they are subject to torture or other abuses.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, also said one of the female hostages had died under "mysterious circumstances.”
Sweida province is the heartland of the country's Druze minority, which made up around three percent of Syria's pre-war population -- or around 700,000 people.
On July 25, IS waged a series of suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings that left more than 250 people dead across the province, most of them civilians.
It later emerged the jihadists had also kidnapped more than 30 people -- mostly Druze women and their children -- during the attack.
While IS claimed responsibility for the violence, it has made no mention of the abductions on its usual channels.
The group had reportedly requested the hostages' families send any medication that the kidnapped may need, Radwan said, but negotiators feared it was a ploy to abduct whoever delivered the treatments.
After the two deaths, there remain at least 13 women and 15 children in IS custody.
The hostages were being moved among different locations to avoid Syrian government shelling, Radwan said.
Regime troops on Sunday began fierce bombardment of IS positions in the northeastern sliver of Sweida province, which falls in the vast desert known in the country as the Badiya.