The United States has condemned the killings of two local female officials who were recently kidnapped by militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terror group in northeastern Syria.
The U.S. Embassy in Syria said Thursday that it “was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of Seda al-Faisal al-Hermas and Hind Latif al-Khidr.”
“We condemn their murder by Daesh terrorists and offer sincere condolences to their families,” the embassy said in a tweet, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in 2012 following a Syrian government crackdown on protesters during the early days of the country’s civil war. The embassy, however, maintains contact with the Syrian public through social media.
Hermas and Khidr reportedly were kidnapped last week from their houses in the town of al-Dashisha, south of the city of al-Hasakah in northeast Syria. Witnesses told local news media that at least eight men, suspected to be part of an IS cell, orchestrated the kidnappings.
Hours after their abductions, the bodies of the two women were found decapitated near a main road in the area, local reports said.
Hermas was the co-chair of her town’s local administrative council, while Khidr was a board member of the same council. The town of al-Dashisha was freed from IS in 2017 by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Mazloum Abdi, general commander of the SDF, said the killings represented an attack on free women and democratic values.
“We pledge to our people to pursue the criminal cells until justice is achieved,” he said in a tweet this week.
Despite its territorial defeat in March 2019, IS continues to carry out terror attacks against civilians and SDF forces in northeastern Syria, especially in the province of Deir el-Zour.
Last week, IS claimed responsibility for the death of a disabled man in the town of Ghariba in Deir el-Zour. Two days before that, two gunmen on a motorbike killed a member of the SDF-linked Deir el-Zour Civil Council in the town of Abu Khashab. Local media accused IS members of carrying out the attack.
Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said Thursday via Twitter that the coalition’s “goal is stabilization of these areas, which is crucial to ensuring the long-term defeat of Daesh, setting the groundwork for communities to recover, [and] denying terrorists the ability to regenerate or reclaim lost ground.”