UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- A Survey and dozens of interviews have showed that pro-U.S. militants are present in the Rukban refugee camp in southeast Syria and have been torturing the residents, an NGO head said here Thursday.
At an event organized by Russian United Nation (UN) mission, Maxim Grigoriev, director of the Moscow-based Foundation for the Study of Democracy, presented the findings of a survey of 248 people who had left Rukban as well as 50 detailed interviews.
The former residents said militants had prevented people in the camp from leaving for areas controlled by the Syrian government and that those with a positive attitude toward the government were subjected to pressure, including beatings and torture, destruction of property, and threats to relatives.
"All members of the armed groups have undergone military training at the U.S. base," Grigoriev quoted the former residents, including former militants, as saying, referring to the al-Tanf base, a U.S. military base in southern Syria along the Iraq and Jordan-Syria border.
"None of the interviewees have any doubts that the camp is run by the Americans and the militants are directly subordinate to them," he said.
Also, the former residents cited numerous examples of killings and beatings by militants and talked about cases of rape and harassment of women and children, he said.
"A separate source of income for militants is the abduction of young children, who are returned to their parents only for a significant ransom," Grigoriev said.
Besides the threats posed by the militants, he said Rukban are also afflicted hunger and lack of medical care, with the latter resulting in 20-30 deaths every month in the camp.
In mid-September, the Russian Defense Ministry said the resettlement of residents from the Rukban camp might be completed in October if U.S.-backed rebels did not torpedo it.
The ministry said the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties and the Control of the Movement of Refugees in Syria have received an updated UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent plan for the removal of the remaining Rukban residents.