Tuesday 19 March 2019

Syria offensive slows to allow civilians to flee

Black plumes of smoke rise in Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria. Photo: Rodi Said/Reuters
Black plumes of smoke rise in Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria. Photo: Rodi Said/Reuters

Ellen Francis

US-backed fighters have slowed an offensive to take Isil's last enclave in eastern Syria as a small number of civilians remain there, though fierce fighting continues.

Isil faces defeat in the last shred of its main territory in Syria and Iraq where it announced a "caliphate" in 2014, suffering years of steady retreats after arousing global fury through grotesque displays of cruelty.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) resumed its assault on the group's pocket in the village of Baghouz at the weekend, the culmination of a campaign which included the capture of Raqqa in 2017.

The militia had already paused its attack for weeks to allow thousands of people to flee, including Isil supporters, fighters, children, local people and some captives.

It said last week that only jihadists remain, but now says some civilians are left.

"We're slowing down the offensive in Baghouz due to a small number of civilians held as human shields by Daesh," said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali on Twitter, using an Arabic acronym for Isil.

However, "the battle to retake the last holdout is going to be over soon," he added.

Dozens of trucks similar to those which evacuated people from the enclave in recent weeks were visible heading back there yesterday and drivers said they were going to pick people up at Baghouz.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News