ISIS freed hundreds of civilians used by jihadists as human shields while retreating in northern Syrian, according to statements by U.S.-backed forces and a monitor on Saturday.
U.S.-backed forces have gained full control over the northern Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border after last ISIS militants retreated.
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) were now sweeping the city and freed over 2,000 civilian hostages who had been held by the militants, Sharfan Darwish of the SDF allied Manbij Military Council stated, adding that there were around 100 ISIS members in the city earlier.
“The city is now fully under our control but we are undertaking sweeping operations,” Darwish said, adding militant sleeper cells in the city were still a threat.
The Manbij operation marks the most prominent advance by a group associated with Washington in Syria since the United States launched its military campaign against ISIS two years ago, noting that U.S. Special Forces have played an important role on the ground of this operation.
Manbij’s loss to the militants is a big blow as it is of strategic importance, serving as a channel for transit of foreign jihadists and provisions coming from the Turkish border.
Kurdish sources and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s five-year-old conflict, said ISIS militants left Manbij and headed northeast towards Jarablus, a town under ISIS control on the Turkish border, the Observatory said.
The convoy carried the final ISIS militants leaving the city under an agreement between the fighting parties that would not be announced officially, Kurdish sources and the monitor said, marking the end of the operation.