Middle East

Dutch IS militants in Syria's 'deaths' disputed

Islamic State militants ride in convoy in Tal Abyad, Raqqa province, Syria (file) Image copyright Manbar.me
Image caption Islamic State militants control much of the northern Syrian province of Raqqa

A monitoring group is disputing a report that so-called Islamic State (IS) has killed eight Dutch militants accused of trying to desert in Syria.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group that reports on abuses in IS-held Raqqa province, said the men were killed in Maadan on Friday.

They were held after clashes between Dutch and Iraqi jihadists, it added.

But the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited its own sources as saying the RBSS report was not true.

The city of Raqqa become the de facto capital of the caliphate whose formation IS proclaimed in 2014 after taking control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.

'Fake rumours'

On Monday, RBSS reported that tensions between the Dutch unit, based in the Furusiya district of Raqqa, and the Iraqi units had escalated over the past month.

It reportedly began when three of the Dutch fighters were arrested by the Iraqis on suspicion of wanting to flee IS-held territory. The next day, one of them was beaten to death during interrogation, RBSS said.

Angered by his death, other members of the unit went to the intelligence facility and clashes erupted with the Iraqis, it added.

The IS leadership in Raqqa subsequently sent an intermediary to the Dutch unit's base to defuse the tensions but he was reportedly killed.

Senior IS leaders in Iraq reacted by ordering the arrest of all the members of the Dutch unit, RBSS said. They were imprisoned in Tabqa and Maadan, where the eight men were killed, it added.

But on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory cited what it described as reliable sources as saying that the report was based on "fake rumours" and that IS had not killed any of its foreign fighters.

It also cited "sources inside IS" as saying there were not that many Dutch fighters in Raqqa, and that the group had been forming units with mixed nationalities because of a "misunderstanding" last year between Uzbek and Tunisian units.

The Dutch authorities believe 200 people from the Netherlands, including 50 women, have joined IS in Syria and Iraq.