UN Monitors Supervise Swap in Khan Sheikhon
UN monitors today supervised an exchange of detainees in Khan Sheikhon, the same town they were stranded in when an explosion struck their cars.
The two detainees, Dr. Salaheddine AlSaleh and Walid Ma’amoun, were seized by security forces during the chaos that ensued the attack on the UN vehicles on May 16. The residents have been pressuring the UNSMIS delegation to secure their release ever since.
The activists say they were contacted by Col. Ahmed Himiche who detailed the parameters of the exchange. “They wanted us to return a tank the FSA captured in the fight that day.” Abou Houmam, a local activist said. “We care about our detained brothers more than anything so we accepted immediately.”
Video posted by activists online showed different phases of the operation. In the video activists are seen discussing the details of the swap with the monitors. The activists are heard seeking assurances that the Syrian army will not be directly involved. The video also shows people in military fatigues preparing a damaged armored vehicle for transfer. The video ends with Dr. AlSaleh and Mr. Ma’amoun walking out of a UN vehicle to be greeted by the town’s residents who promptly rush to greet and hug them.
The monitors, headed by Col. Himiche, arrived around noon to prepare for the exchange. The tank was disabled and had to be towed according to Abou Houmam who was present during the swap.
The residents of Khan Sheikhon were overjoyed at the release of Dr. AlSaleh and Mr. Ma`amoun but there are 67 detainees from town still behind bars. The residents hope that UN monitors will help in securing their release.