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Indian-origin British doctor dies in Syrian custody

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 - 11:55pm IST | Place: London | Agency: PTI

A 32-year-old Indian-origin British surgeon, jailed in Syria for over a year after volunteering to help victims of violence, has died, becoming the second doctor of Indian descent to have lost his life in the war-torn country.

Dr Shah Abbas Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from Streatham, south London, travelled to the city of Aleppo last year to help civilians.

His brother Afroze said today the Syrian National Security Agency had promised his release this week but yesterday it said he had died, BBC reported.

Afroze said Abbas was moved from a prison in Damascus to the National Security Agency's headquarters.

He said his mother Fatima — a British-Indian - who has been in Damascus for the last four months, was told she could visit her son yesterday and when she arrived she was told he was dead.

Fatima had also approached the Indian government for help earlier but his British nationality left his case in the hands of the UK Foreign Office.

Afroze said the family had no information about how he died.

"My brother was going to be released at the end of the week. We were given assurance by the Syrian government. My brother knew that. He was ready to come back home. He was happy and looking forward to being released," Afroze was quoted as saying by BBC.

"We are devastated, distraught and we are angry at the Foreign Office for dragging their feet for 13 months," he said.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said, "We are extremely concerned by reports that a British national has died in detention in Syria. We are urgently seeking clarification of this from the Syrian authorities. If these tragic reports are true, responsibility for Dr Khan's death lies with them and we will be pressing for answers about what happened." "We have consistently sought consular access to Dr Khan and information on his detention, directly and through the Russians, Czechs and others," he said.

Abbas, who was married with two young children, spent a year training as a surgical registrar in Carlisle and also worked at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

He was arrested by government forces within 48 hours of arriving in Aleppo to work as an emergency surgeon.

For five months, Abbas's family feared that he was dead. Eventually, they tracked him down to a military prison, where he said he had been starved and beaten while being detained without charge.

Another British doctor of Indian-origin Isa Abdur Rahman, who had travelled to a rebel-held area in northern Syria was killed in May this year.

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