A rogue militant group formerly allied with al Qaeda kidnapped more than a 150 teenage Kurdish students in Syria and forced them to take Islamic training, a monitoring group and Kurdish officials told CNN on Friday.
Radical fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are holding the boys ranging in age from 15 to 18 at a Sharia law school in the northern town of Manbij, Nouri Mahmoud, a member of the local Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the Syrian city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, told CNN.
“They are training them in Islam and prayer, but we are afraid that they are teaching them to carry out operations in Kobani. We are very concerned that they will use the children for their terrorism,” Mahmoud said.
The Syrian government refused to set up testing centers in the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani, forcing nearly 1,500 students to travel to the flashpoint city of Aleppo for year-end exams, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“These students are from the Kurdish people, which are a part of the Syrian people. All they wanted was their diplomas from school. There was no reason for them to go to Aleppo and risk their lives.” Mahmoud said.
Last week, ISIS stopped the buses driving students back from exams to their hometown of Kobani and abducted the boys despite an agreement with the local community to allow the Kurdish students safe passage, Mahmoud said.
The People’s Protection Unit (YPG), a Kurdish militia, rules the city of Kobani, but ISIS controls much of the surrounding area, effectively imposing a siege on residents.
“We do not know their fate and the only solution we have is to appeal to the United Nations and to the international community. They must intervene in this issue,” Mahmoud said.
Syria’s scattered and long-oppressed Kurdish community fought and won its local autonomy but distanced itself from the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. The YPG, which defends and administers the ethnic minority’s strongholds, predominately in the north, often faces armed attacks by anti-government groups vying for resources and control.
ISIS is believed to have been involved in the killings of 15 civilians, including seven children, last month in the northeast village of al-Tleiliye, Amnesty International said in a report issued Thursday.
“ISIS wants to break the will of the Kurdish people so they can order them as they wish,” Mahmoud said. “The community just wants to defend its freedom and dignity.”