Thousands evacuate last IS bastion in Syria
Damascus, Feb. 23 (IANS): Thousands of people evacuated the Islamic State (IS) terror group’s last bastion in Syria in vehicles escorted by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Adnan Afrin, military comander of the SDF, told Efe news on Friday that “more than 2,500 people left today” from Baghouz, the last settlement controlled by the IS in Syria, located on the east bank of the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq.
“A number of combatants surrendered to the SDF today in the village of Al-Baghouz Tahtani, which is under our control, while some hid among the civilians until they got to a checkpoint and then gave themselves up,” Afrin said.
“The process of evacuating civilians continues and the corridor is open, with units of our forces standing by to ease the exodus of the civilians.”
Most of the people who left Friday were women and children, he said. They are being taken to the Al Hol camp, where an estimated 42,000 people have sought refuge.
He added that “the SDF will undertake no military operation as long as there are still civilians in the village of Al-Baghouz”.
About 10 trucks which are parked on the outskirts of Baghouz, will evacuate more people on Saturday.
Afrin estimated that some 3,000 civilians remain in Baghouz, but since there could be more hiding in tunnels, the SDF is unable to give an exact number.
In recent days the SDF has rounded up the last IS radicals and their families in one neighbourhood of Baghouz.
On Wednesday close to 1,200 people were evacuated, mostly children and women but also a few men, including some IS combatants.
The SDF has now suspended its offensive against the IS in this small corner of the country.
Kurdish forces have been waging war since last September against the last jihadi strongholds in Deir al-Zour province, with the help of the international coalition led by the US.
Over the past few months, they have conquered almost all the territory in the province that was formerly dominated by IS.