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U.N. unable to verify incendiary bombs in Syria, but airs concern.

Summary: The United Nations is concerned by the Syrian opposition's accusations that incendiary weapons have been used in Syria but said Friday it is unable to verify the reports.

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT: The United Nations is concerned by the Syrian opposition's accusations that incendiary weapons have been used in Syria but said Friday it is unable to verify the reports.

The Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday to launch an investigation into its accusations that Russia has used air-delivered incendiary weapons and cluster bombs in Syria.

The Russian mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the accusations.

"We are concerned about the reports of the use of incendiary weapons in Aleppo, Syria," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said. "We are not in a position to verify these reports. ... We expect that all parties and states involved in the conflict will refrain from their use in this way."

Incendiary weapons use substances that are designed to set fire to objects or burn people, and cluster munitions are containers that explode in the air to distribute smaller bombs over a large area. Both are banned under the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Russia deployed warplanes to Syria last year to support President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to end his rule. A crackdown by Assad on protesters five years ago sparked a civil war, and Daesh (ISIS) militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

A Kurdish official and Syrian activists said Friday that Daesh has abducted some 900 Kurds in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo over the past three weeks amid fierce fighting for control of the militant stronghold of Manbij. The abductions began shortly after the predominantly Kurdish and U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces began an offensive on May 31 to capture the town.Daesh has a history of mass kidnappings in areas they control in Syria and Iraq and have mostly targeted Christians and Kurds in the past.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 900 civilians were detained near the Daesh-held town of Al-Bab. SDF spokesman Sherfan Darwish told the Associated Press that the seizure of over 900 is in retaliation for the offensive. "Whenever Daesh is defeated, they retaliate against civilians," Darwish said, adding that there are whole families among those taken.

The abductions have been taking place mostly in areas under Daesh control, from the western Manbij countryside to the towns of Al-Bab and Al-Rai, according to Kurdish media activist Rezan Hiddo. He said the ongoing campaign has prompted families to flee the towns in fear.

The Observatory and Darwish said some of those taken captive have been forced to dig trenches in Daesh-held areas while others are imprisoned in detention centers. Darwish said all captured males above the age of 12 were sent against their will to the front lines to help fortify Daesh positions.

The militants have killed 26 of the captives for resisting detention or refusing orders, according to Hiddo. His report could not be independently confirmed and Daesh made no immediate claim over the abductions or the killings.

Daesh has not engaged in any negotiations for the release of the Kurdish civilians, nor asked for any ransom, Hiddo said, speaking from the nearby Kurdish stronghold of Afrin.

The Observatory said Daesh fighters stormed homes in several villages they control near Al-Bab, including Arab, Qabaseen and Nairabiyeh, and took with them mostly men. Opposition activists reported clashes inside Manbij Friday and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. The battle of Manbij has so far claimed the lives of 81 SDF fighters and 463 extremists, according to the Observatory.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:Jun 25, 2016
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