Four prominent Syrian activists, including one whose work was recognised by the European parliament, were kidnapped Tuesday in a rebel-held area near Damascus by unknown individuals, an activist network said.
“On the morning of December 10th, a group of unknown people broke into the headquarters of a group documenting abuses in Syria in the Douma area in besieged Eastern Ghouta,” the Local Coordination Committees said.
“The activists Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem al-Hamadi were all detained,” the group added in a statement.
Zeitouneh is a well-known Syrian activist who was among the 2011 winners of the European parliament’s human rights prize. Hamada is her husband.
The kidnapping took place in Damascus province, not far from the capital, in a rebel-held area besieged by regime forces.
Fares Mohamed, an activist with the LCC, told AFP that an armed opposition group in the region was believed to be behind the kidnapping.
Multiple rebel groups, including the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, are operating in the Douma area.
“We’re working to gather information, but we don’t have any leads yet,” Mohamed said.
The LCC strongly condemned the kidnapping and those behind it, saying it held them “directly responsible for any harm” to the activists.
It called for the captors to immediately return the activists safely and unconditionally.
Zeitouneh is one of the Syrian uprising’s most prominent early proponents, and has criticised abuses by all parties to the conflict.
The LCC supports the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but is opposed to the militarisation of the conflict and has documented deaths in the civil war, which was ignited by a brutal government crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another monitoring group, says more than 125,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011.