BEIRUT, April 2 - RAPSI, Denis Malkov. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a law setting the penalty for kidnapping to life imprisonment, his press office reported on Tuesday.

According to the law, anyone found guilty of kidnapping another individual will be sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. If the kidnapped individual sustained serious injury, was raped or murdered, the criminal will be executed.

Until recently, Syrian law stipulated various prison terms for kidnapping, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim.

Syria has seen a massive increase in kidnappings in militant-controlled areas as of late. Criminal groups demand ransoms for their victims, ranging from several thousand to several million dollars.

The armed conflict between the Syrian government and the opposition has continued since March 2011. According to the UN, 70,000 people have been killed in the country over this period of time. The authorities also claim that they are fighting well-organized and armed local militants and foreign mercenaries.