IS frees hundreds of 'human shields' in Syria
August 13 2016 05:39 PM
A man cuts the beard of a civilian who was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF
A man cuts the beard of a civilian who was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016

AFP/Beirut

Islamic State group jihadists have released hundreds of civilians they used as human shields while fleeing a crumbling stronghold in northern Syria, but the fate of others remained unknown Saturday.

The last remaining IS fighters abandoned Manbij near the Turkish border on Friday after a rout that the Pentagon said showed the extremists were "on the ropes".
The retreat from the city which IS captured in 2014 marked the jihadists' worst defeat yet at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish alliance supported by US air power.
Fleeing fighters took around 2,000 civilians, including women and children, on Friday to ward off air strikes as they headed to the IS-held frontier town of Jarabulus, according to the SDF.
At least some of the civilians were later released or escaped, the alliance said on Saturday, but the whereabouts of the rest was unknown.
"There are no more IS fighters" left in Manbij, an SDF member said.
Kurdish television showed footage of jubilant civilians in Manbij, including smiling mothers who had shed their veils and women embracing Kurdish fighters.

Booby-trapped houses

One woman burned a black robe that the jihadists had forced residents to wear, while men who had lived for weeks under a shaving ban cut their beards.
"The battle was very hard," a Kurdish source told AFP, adding that the jihadists had laid mines in the city.
"One SDF fighter entered a house on Friday and saw a shoe placed on a Koran. When he removed it there was an explosion and he was killed," the source said.
Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that several hundred of the civilians taken from Manbij were no longer being.
"Among the civilians taken by IS there were people used as human shields but also many who chose voluntarily to leave the town due to fear of reprisals" by the SDF, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The SDF began an assault in May on Manbij, on a key jihadist supply route between the Turkish border and IS's de facto Syrian capital Raqa.
The jihadists, who have suffered a string of losses in Syria and Iraq, have often staged mass abductions when they come under pressure to relinquish territory they hold.
IS has also booby-trapped cars and carried out suicide bombings to slow advances by their opponents.

Hundreds killed

SDF forces captured Manbij on August 6 but continued to battle pockets of jihadist resistance there.
According to the Observatory, 437 civilians, including more than 100 children, were killed in the battle for Manbij and surrounding territory.
Around 300 SDF fighters died, along with more than 1,000 jihadists, it said.
Pentagon deputy press secretary Gordon Trowbridge said Friday that IS "is clearly on the ropes".
"It has lost the centre of Manbij, it has lost control of Manbij," he said.
Since the battle for Manbij began, US-led strikes have destroyed more than 50 IS heavy weapons and more than 600 fortified fighting positions, Trowbridge said.
But the job of clearing the city will be difficult after the jihadists left behind hundreds of mines and booby traps, he added.
Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 and has since killed more than 290,000 people and drawn in world powers on all sides of the war.
On Friday, Russian and Syrian jets pounded rebel positions in and around second city Aleppo despite a pledge by Moscow to observe a three-hour daily ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid deliveries.
Rebels and government forces also clashed Saturday in the city, where more than 200 civilians have been killed since a rebel offensive began on July 31, the Observatory said.



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