The Syrian army has managed to free nearly 50 hostages captured by al-Qaeda-linked groups in the northeastern province of Raqqah Shiite news reports.
The Syrian army soldiers, backed by a group of pro-government militia, freed 48 kidnapped soldiers and civilians, some of whom were held over a year, in a daring operation early on Wednesday.
“I am so happy that I am out, but I am happier that no exchange was done for my release and that I was liberated by fellow soldiers and the good people of Raqqah who stand beside our army,” said one of the released hostages.
Raqqah has been under the control of foreign-sponsored militants for over a year.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. Damascus says the West and its regional allies have been fuelling the unrest by providing militants with money and weapons.
On Tuesday, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of spies working for the foreign-backed opposition, said that the total deaths resulting from the ongoing crisis in Syria amounted to 150,344 people, of which 51,212 were civilians, including 7,985 children.