Civilians flee last ISIS stronghold in Syria
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 2/13/19, 11:43 am
More than 1,000 civilians have fled the last major Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold in Syria after five days of fighting by U.S.-backed forces to regain control of the town. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday began an offensive on Baghuz in Deir al-Zour province backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. Some 300 civilians fled the war zone during the day, while 600 more left overnight, SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said Tuesday.
ISIS prolonged the fighting by using suicide and car bombs, booby traps, and civilian human shields. Some 19 SDF fighters and 27 ISIS gunmen died, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Syrian state media said a U.S.-coalition airstrike killed or wounded about 70 people in a settlement where hundreds of people sought shelter from the fighting. Col. Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman confirmed the report, saying, “There are multiple actors conducting strikes within the area, so we are looking into it.”
About 600 ISIS fighters remain in the city, whose capture could bring a major victory for the coalition. But Ryan said the battle will not end with reclaiming the city. “After Baghuz, clearing operations will have to take place, as well, and ISIS has purposely left [improvised explosive devices] behind to intentionally kill innocent civilians,” he said.
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Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.