Syria Kurdish militia to prosecute fighters accused of property damage
BEIRUT - Syria's leading Kurdish militia said Tuesday it had arrested and would prosecute four of its fighters accused of damaging property in a town reclaimed from the Islamic State group.
The announcement comes after accusations by activists and Amnesty International of abuses by Kurdish forces against mostly Arab residents of areas recaptured from ISIS in northern Syria.
In a statement, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said four of its members had been arrested "on accusations of damaging the property of citizens of Al-Hol and some surrounding villages".
"At the end of an investigation and interrogation, they have been stripped of their YPG membership and will face prosecution before a court," the statement said.
It identified the four men only by their initials, and released images of them taken from behind.
Al-Hol, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province, was captured from ISIS by a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters in November.
The arrests come after persistent reports of tensions between the powerful YPG and Arab residents in parts of northern Syria where the militia has led the fight against ISIS, backed by US-led air strikes.
In October, Amnesty accused Kurdish forces of carrying out forced displacement and home demolitions in Syria's north and northeast that it said amounted to "war crimes".
It said Kurdish forces had carried out a "campaign of collective punishment" of residents in villages previously held by ISIS, who were mostly Arabs.
The YPG denounced the accusations and noted its alliances with Arab fighters against ISIS, which it said "removed all doubt" it would discriminate against any ethnic group.
Amnesty and activists have also accused Kurdish forces of refusing to allow residents to return to their villages after the expulsion of ISIS forces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said demonstrations had been held in recent days by residents of Al-Hol demanding to be allowed to return.
Kurdish forces have said residents are only prevented from returning to their homes if there is a risk of renewed ISIS infiltration or if there are operations to clear explosive devices.