Syria Interview: Fact and Fiction Over ISIS “Massacre of Civilians” in Deir ez-Zor
PHOTO: Islamic State fighters in Raqqa, June 2014
On Saturday, Syrian State media began spreading the claim that 280 civilians were killed and 400 abducted when the Islamic State attacked two districts of Deir ez-Zor city in eastern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also circulated the figures without any supporting evidence.
Pro-opposition activists denied the reports, saying that about 15 regime militia had been killed in the ISIS attacks on Ayyash — which they still control — and al-Bughayliyah.
Even though a Syrian “field commander” also said the abductions report is untrue, the Syrian Foreign Ministry wrote the UN today with the claims.
Syria Direct spoke on Monday with Abu Zeid Abdullah, a journalist with the pro-opposition Sound and Picture, about the reports. Currently in Idlib province, Abdullah is in contact with Sound and Picture’s correspondents in Deir ez-Zor city.
Q: How are civilians doing right now in the areas where clashes are happening? Al-Bughayliyah specifically?
Civilians who are still inside the village are in the midst of panic. They fear that death might come at any moment as a result of the regime’s indiscriminate bombings of roads and crossings.
There are injured people still in their houses, to say nothing of the fact that a number of houses were destroyed by heavy bombing from Russian warplanes.
Q: Some media outlets are reporting that the Islamic State kidnapped 400 people in al-Bughayliyah. Is this true?
We’ve denied previously that this is true. It isn’t. What happened was that families tried to flee from al-Bughayliyah, and IS picked them up and sent them to Raqqa. They sent the young men off to sharia courses. About 20 families were subjected to this treatment — so the total number is around 60 people.
There were also arrests and executions that targeted members of the NDF and other regime militiamen and supporters, around 15 men total. IS arrested a number of civilians in the town of al-Bughayliyah, including traders, charging them with smuggling food into regime-controlled areas. This is all that happened in Al-Bughayliyah. The talk about 400 people is extremely exaggerated.
Q: What’s the actual number of civilians who were killed during the fighting? Some media reports say that more than 150 inside Al-Bughayliyah?
That is incorrect. Today, the number of dead from the battle reached around 100. The dead are made up of NDF fighters who were killed during the battle, or when IS stormed the village. A number of regime soldiers were captured and executed yesterday night in the a-Sheikh Yassin neighborhood of Deir ez-Zor.
As for civilians, IS executed two in Al-Bughayliyah after charging them with working for the regime. There were around 15 civilians killed because of the Russian airstrikes, and the regime’s shelling of the neighborhood, including 10 people from two families. Women and children were among the dead.