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28k Syrian refugees 'hostage' of US-controlled militants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The handout photo released by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on November 5, 2018, shows displaced Syrians receiving vaccinations at the Rukban camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border. (Via AFP)

The Russian and Syrian coordination headquarters have raised alarm at the situation in the Rukban “death camp," saying about 28,000 Syrian refugees have been taken "hostage" by US-controlled militants there.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the centers said that armed groups demand up to $1,500 per family for leaving the camp, which lies within a 55-kilometer zone occupied by the US around its military base in the Syrian town of At-Tanf.

"There are approximately 28,000 Syrians in terrifying conditions in Rukban who cannot leave its territory being taken hostages by US-controlled armed groups, demanding up to 1,500 US dollars per family for leaving the camp.  Most of camp residents simply do not have such money," read the statement.

It also urged the US command in the area to stop "the criminal activities of the gangs" under its control and ensure "the unimpeded exit" of the Rukban camp residents.

"It is necessary to intensify the evacuation of Syrian citizens, since every day of delay in disbanding the camp only prolongs the suffering of its inhabitants," the statement added.

It further estimated that more than 1.8 million Syrians have returned home while over 1.3 million are still internally displaced and over 500,000 are refugees in other countries.

Every day, it said, between  1,000 and 2,000 Syrians return to their homeland from neighboring countries of Jordan and Lebanon.

The statement also complained about the "destabilizing" role of the US both in Syria and the region, adding, "The US influence hampers the process of repatriation of Syrian refugees."

Over the past few months, Syrian troops, backed by the Russian air force and Iranian military advisors, have made sweeping gains against Western-backed Takfiri terrorist who have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.

The US is among the countries that are providing financial and military support for anti-Damascus militants.

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