- Associated Press - Friday, February 22, 2013

BEIRUT — Activists say that more than 200 people kidnapped recently by gunmen from opposing Sunni and Shiite villages in northern Syria have been released, temporarily easing local tensions.

The crisis started last week when a bus carrying a few dozen Shiites, mostly women and children, disappeared in northern Syria. Activists say Shiite gunmen accused rebels, and kidnapped more than 200 residents of nearby Sunni villages in retaliation.

Activist Hamza Abu al-Hassan said Friday that after a swap deal, the Shiites were released early Thursday and most of the Sunnis were freed later the same day.

Local Shiites could not be reached for comment, but Facebook pages for their villages said the captives had been released.

Syria’s civil war has exacerbated tensions between Syria’s many religious groups.

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