Gunmen from rival Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim villages in northern Syria have freed more than 200 people snatched in tit-for-tat kidnappings this month, easing tensions that threatened to touch off more sectarian violence, activists said yesterday.
In Syria's largest city of Aleppo, three explosions that appeared to be caused by missiles killed at least 14 people, activists said, adding that dozens of others were feared to be trapped under the rubble of damaged buildings.
The wave of abductions in a rural part of Idlib province highlighted how much the civil war between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and hundreds of rebel groups has enflamed tensions between Syria's religious groups.
The Idlib kidnappings showed how quickly sectarian tensions can escalate. Opposition activists say the abductions began on February 14 when a bus carrying mostly women and children disappeared on the road to Damascus.
Gunmen from the area's two Shi'ite villages responded by snatching civilians from the Sunni villages nearby. The total number of those kidnapped remains unclear.