The General Commander of Raqqa Rebels Brigade, Abu Issa, has told al-Quds al-Arabi that negotiations to exchange captives have begun with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
The brigade agreed on the exchange deal, which was prepared for by figures from Raqqa tribes sent by ISIS to discuss the situation of their captives.
Abu Issa said the main condition to continue the negotiations is the release of all the civilians and fighters captured by ISIS, and if the organization admitted the death of a captive, it should deliver the body to his family.
According to the commander of Raqqa rebels, the first round of negotiations was hindered by ISIS who did not provide the names of captives it arrested, saying that they were kidnapped during the formal rule of Abu Luqman. Abu Luqman is still believd to be the real leader of ISIS.
"During the battle with ISIS in Raqqa in the middle of January, the brigade captured 35 members of the organization; among them one from Iraq, one from Turkey and one from Azerbaijan. The others were from Raqqa and other governorates. The goal of capturing them was to exchange them with the civilians and media activists kidnapped by ISIS," added Abu Issa.
One prison survivor said the kidnapped civilians and fighters all remain in ISIS's biggest prison; al-Sad prison in Tabqa city, including the rights advocate Abdullah al-Khalil, the activist Firas Alhaj Saleh, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, the activist Ibrahim al-Ghazi, and the military leader lieutenant Abdulwahab (nicknamed Memati), who was transported to the prison later.
The battle fought weeks ago between ISIS on one side and the Nusra Front and Raqqa rebels on the other led ISIS to withdraw from most of its headquarters in the city, including Kanisat as-Shuhadda (the Martyrs Church) in the middle of the city, and the vehicles directorate building. 50 detainees were released at the time, including activists and members of other Islamic factions such as al-Farouq, at-Tawhid, and Ahfad ar-Rasoul. The prisoners appeared later in a video clip describing the torture they had suffered at the hands of ISIS.
ISIS finally withdrew from the building of the governorate, which was its last stronghold. But the Ahrar al-Sham movement decided to withdraw from the fight against ISIS, which helped the organization regain the headquarters lost in the first days of fight.
ISIS applies its own rules and laws as a state, including taxes on merchants, closure of universities and institutes, and arrests on accusations of atheism and disbelief. ISIS has kidnaped dozens of civilian activists and leaders of revolutionary and military movements in Raqqa, including the human rights activist and the director of the local council in Raqqa governorate, Abdullah al-Khalil, who was kidnapped in May 2013 by ISIS. The destiny of the kidnapped remains unknown.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer