Over 60,000 people fled | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 18, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 18, 2019

Over 60,000 people fled

Says SDF as offensive on last IS holdout in Syria intensifies; 100 jihadists, families surrender

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said yesterday over 60,000 people, mostly civilians, had flooded out of Islamic State's last enclave in eastern Syria since a final assault to capture it began over two months ago.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told journalists that 29,600 people, the majority of whom were families of fighters of the militant group, had surrendered since the US-backed forces led by the Kurdish YPG laid siege to the town of Baghouz and its hinterland on the Euphrates River.

Among them were 5,000 militants, the SDF said.

Another 34,000 civilians were evacuated from Baghouz, the last shred of territory held by the jihadists who have been driven from roughly one third of Iraq and Syria over the past four years, Gabriel said.

Former residents from the region say many of the civilians who came out of the Baghouz area in recent weeks were Iraqi Sunnis with close tribal ties on the other side of the border in Deir al-Zor, a Sunni heartland.

They sought sanctuary in Syria for fear of revenge attacks by the Iraqi Hashd al Shaabi, the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq who swept through their areas when the militants lost control.

Another SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters only around a hundred militants and their families had surrendered overnight in the remaining spot where hardline insurgents have been mounting a desperate last-stand defence.

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