RAQQA (Kurdistan 24) - The US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in northern and eastern Syria on Saturday revealed they had released dozens of alleged IS member in what it said was a gesture of goodwill designed to promote stability in the region.
“One hundred and eight low-ranking fighters have been pardoned as they do not have blood on their hands,” the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the Kurdish YPG is a leading element, declared in an online statement.
The prisoners were released in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border in response to the request by tribal leaders in Raqqa province, the SDF statement read.
The pardoned fighters were low-ranking members and were not involved in the violence, nor did they commit any heinous crimes, the SDF statement continued.
One by one, they stepped down from buses and gathered in a square in Tal Abyad where tribal leaders and SDF officials delivered speeches.
“Many tried to create sedition over the issue of these prisoners, but we tried hard to prevent it. We negotiated with the competent authorities to expedite investigations and release those whose hands were not stained with blood,” Hamad Shahada, a prominent tribal leader, said in a speech delivered at the amnesty ceremony.
Applause from all sides followed the speeches.
The men walked past SDF officials and Raqqa civilian Council (RCC) members who shook their hands before tasting freedom and reuniting with their families.
Sweets were handed out on trays in what officials hoped would be the start of a new chapter in the men’s lives.
The pardons may be one small step towards easing tensions that run deep in Raqqa after three years of ruthless Islamic State occupation followed by a war.
On October 17, the SDF declared full victory over the jihadist group and the liberation of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate.
The group took over large swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq in mid-2014. For three years, they committed atrocities against people living under their rule, notably the Yezidi (Ezidi) minority against which they committed genocide, killing thousands of men, and kidnapping and enslaving thousands of women and children.
Editing by Nadia Riva