Published: Mon, March 04, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Syria's Kurds set free almost 300 IS-linked Syrians

Syria's Kurds set free almost 300 IS-linked Syrians

"ISIS fighters have been using suicide vests and auto bombs to slow down the SDF offensive and hide from Coalition strikes in the area of Baghouz", colonel Sean Ryan said.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced into Islamic State's final territorial enclave where heavy fighting is under way, the SDF media office said on Friday.

US-backed Syrian forces are believed to have advanced nearly one kilometre into the last-remaining enclave of the Islamic State.

Bali said three SDF fighters were wounded.

Kurdish-led forces backed by USA warplanes rained artillery fire and air strikes Sunday on besieged and outgunned jihadists making a desperate last stand in a Syrian village.

An array of enemies, both local and worldwide, confronted ISIS after it declared a modern-day "caliphate" in 2014 across large swathes of territory it had seized in lightning offensives in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

A spokesman for the coalition, which supports the Kurdish-led SDF, said it was too early to assess the battle's progress "as it is a complicated situation with many variables". The SDF have now cornered the jihadists in their last stretch of territory near the border with Iraq in a final bid to flush them out.

The SDF, the main Kurdish led-partner of the US -led coalition against Islamic State in Syria, has been trying to evacuate thousands of civilians in Baghouz before storming it or forcing the surrender of the remaining jihadists, who the SDF has said are mostly foreigners.

A few hundred Isis militants, many of them believed to be foreign fighters, remain holed up inside Baghouz, with an unknown number of civilians. The militants usually attack during the day as they don't have night vision goggles while the SDF advances at night, he explained. But Ryan said their hiding underground made it hard to determine current numbers.

In a statement Friday, the United Nations cited reports that more than 84 people, two thirds of them young children under five years of age, have died since December on their way to al-Hol camp after fleeing the group in Syria's Deir el-Zour province. As its territory shrunk, thousands of terrorists, followers and civilians retreated to Baghouz.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clashed with Daesh for almost 18 hours inside Baghouz after removing the remaining civilians and resuming their assault on Friday evening.

About 15,000 US -backed forces in Syria launched their final assault on the small IS enclave in the northeastern Syrian village of Baghuz late Friday, supported by USA and coalition warplanes and artillery. It has not ruled out the possibility that some militants have crept out, hidden among civilians.

Amedi, the SDF commander, said the Kurdish-led force can not rely on airstrikes by the US -led coalition because IS gunmen are trapped everywhere "so if you just rely on airstrikes and then advance on the ground that will cause heavy casualties".

It would allow U.S. President Donald Trump to begin withdrawing the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, as he declared in December he would do.

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