Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

SDF to extradite Kurdish ISIS captives to Kurdistan Region

The pair who are of Pakistani heritage reportedly married into a terror cell linked to the murder of western hostages. — AFP  File The pair who are of Pakistani heritage reportedly married into a terror cell linked to the murder of western hostages. — AFP File
Patty Aguilar | 12 March, 2019, 23:00

At least 50 people were killed on Monday by US -led airstrikes on the last Islamic State (IS) stronghold in eastern Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

Kurdish-led forces pounded the last scrap of land held by the Islamic State group Monday, a scattering of tents and destroyed buildings in a remote eastern Syrian hamlet.

SDF said Sunday that they had resumed their campaign to expel Islamic State from the village of Baghuz after briefly suspending it to evacuate civilians still trapped there.

"Our forces are now clashing with the terrorists", he said.

After weeks of besieging Baghouz, the operation launched Sunday night aims at finally taking the last tiny patch of land held by the militants, a pocket on the banks of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

A former IS fighter who surrendered to the SDF two months ago told Reuters in an interview on Saturday that the group had sent hundreds of men out of its diminishing territory to establish sleeper cells.

The capture of Baghouz will mark the end of Islamic State's territorial rule over populated areas of Iraq and Syria, and the culmination of a US -backed military campaign waged by the SDF for four years.

Warplanes and drones targeted the village as explosions were heard and fires seen from intense artillery and rocket fire.

Black plumes of smoke rise in Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria.

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The jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in SDF-held territory in recent months, and the U.S. military has warned of the need to maintain a "vigilant offensive".

Evacuees are screened by the SDF as they emerge and are sent north to the al-Hol camp, already overcrowded with uprooted Syrians and Iraqis from years of war and struggling to cope with the influx.

Women and children who were evacuated out of the last territory held by Isis militants.

Referring to ISIS fighters from the Kurdish region of Iran, Bali said: "They are from eastern Kurdistan". Some estimates suggest 500 fighters and up to 4,000 women and children could still be there.

The SDF is under extreme pressure as the number of jihadists in its custody grows day by day.

"We are waiting for tomorrow morning or perhaps until the afternoon, we'll give another space, for the possibility that civilians are present and the chance to get them out", he said.

The tent camp had been home for numerous thousands of civilians who had been holed up in Baghouz for weeks.

But the SDF has also said the most hardened foreign jihadists are still holed up inside, ready to fight to the end. The fight against IS has taken place amid Syria's almost eight-year-old civil war.

Despite the assault on Baghouz, IS maintains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has claimed a series of deadly attacks in SDF-held territory.

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