Syria population transfer begins with exchange of prisoners

A Syrian official and an opposition monitoring group say the government and rebels have exchanged 30 prisoners and nine bodies, part of an agreement to evacuate four besieged areas in different parts of the country.

Hakim Baghdad, a member of the relief committee for two rebel-besieged villages in northwestern Syria, said Wednesday the overnight release was overseen by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. The Red Crescent had no immediate comment.

Military-run media said rebels released eight women, four children and eight bodies. Pro-government militias freed 19 gunmen and released one body.

The exchange came as part of a deal to evacuate over 10,000 residents from two opposition-held areas near Damascus and the two villages in northern Syria, an agreement that critics say amounts to forced displacement.