Published: Thu, February 14, 2019

Hundreds flee US-backed Syria battle for last ISIS holdout

Hundreds flee US-backed Syria battle for last ISIS holdout

Islamic State group militants, many of them foreigners, surrendered to USA -backed fighters in eastern Syria on Wednesday, bringing the Kurdish-led force closer to taking full control of the last remaining area controlled by the extremists, a Kurdish official and activists said.

Suddenly, black dots appeared on the dirt road that snakes across the plain from the ruins of the town. Other European countries have remained largely silent about the fate of men and women whom many see as a security threat.

Once there, she married an Azeri IS member and had two other children.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USA has identified about 50 people among the more than 900 held by Syrian forces as "high value" suspects that could be transported to Guantanamo if they are not repatriated.

"The progress is slow and methodical as the enemy is fully entrenched and IS fighters continue to conduct counter attacks", he said.

Syrian media have repeatedly reported on US-led coalition strikes, which have led to countless civilian casualties and damage to crucial infrastructure in the Arab Republic.

Last Saturday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the start of an operation aimed at liberating Baghuz from the terrorist group Daesh*.

'Six hours? In the cold?'

On Monday, columns of white smoke from coalition air strikes were visible and trucks crammed with fleeing civilians drove along a dusty track out of the enclave, a Reuters witness said.

The SDF launched the battle to expel IS from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor in September, slowly tightening the noose around the jihadists and their families since December.

That figure includes some 3,400 suspected jihadists detained by the SDF, according to the Britain-based monitor.

SDF spokesman Bali said at the weekend that up to 600 jihadists could remain inside the pocket, a lot of them foreigners.

In SDF-held territory earlier Wednesday, two dozen members of the coalition forces searched men who had escaped.

Even after Baghouz is captured, there will have to be clearing operations to rid the village of explosive booby traps left by Islamic State to kill civilians, Ryan said.

Nineteen IS fighters were killed in clashes with the SDF on Monday, with the Kurdish-led SDF losing nine fighters, the Observatory said.

At the height of their proto-state, Baghdadi's followers implemented their brutal implementation of Islamic law in an area the size of Britain.

Abdul-Mahdi told reporters late Tuesday that families of those fighters will also be brought back and that tent settlements will be prepared to host them.

The SDF has warned they may not be able to continue to hold the ISIS fighters after the withdrawal of American forces from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump in December.

Separately on Tuesday, the Syrian government and rebels exchanged prisoners in the country's north as part of a peace process brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the Turkish government said.

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