The Syrian government began releasing 169 militants in its prisons in exchange for the return of the bodies of five Russian soldiers killed when their helicopter was downed, a lawyer told media.
“On Tuesday, 50 inmates including seven women were set free from Adra prison and 84 others from Hama prison,” Michel Chammas, who represents many of them, told reporters by phone from Germany, Ahram Online reported.
“Another 31 inmates at Homs prison were also informed that they are going to be let go but they still haven’t been released. Four others held elsewhere should also be released,” he said.
Chammas told AFP the releases would take place in exchange for the return of “the bodies of five Russian soldiers” that are in militants’ hands.
Two officers and three crew were aboard a Russian military helicopter shot down on August 1 in the Northwestern province of Idlib, which many parts of it were under the control of a coalition of militant groups at that time.
The attack was the single deadliest for Moscow since it intervened in the conflict in September 2015 in support of Syrian government, taking to 18 the overall number of Russian soldiers killed in the country.
Chammas declined to say which militant groups were involved in the negotiations with the governement.
A Syrian monitoring group, said 86 people had been released in the Central city of Hama.
They had been accused of “terrorism” or involvement in anti-regime protests at the outbreak of Syria’s conflict in 2011, said the Britain-based monitor, which has a network of sources on the ground in Syria.
A spokesman for the militant forces involved in the exchange said they had charged a “commission” with negotiating the swap.