Hundreds of ISIL fighters surrender in east Syria
CGTN

About 400 ISIL militants were caught trying to escape the jihadist group's last, tiny scrap of land in eastern Syria, according to a U.S.-backed militia that besieged the area.

ISIL fighters holed up in the enclave at Baghouz near the Iraqi border have been giving up in large numbers this week after a fierce assault on their enclave on Saturday and Sunday, but many remain inside, said the commander of the militia besieging Baghouz.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia has slowed its attack to allow thousands of civilians to leave Baghouz, continuing an exodus that began when it announced it was launching a final battle for the enclave in February.

Far more people were still in Baghouz than the SDF had expected, it said, and it wanted them all to leave before it either stormed the area or otherwise forced ISIL to surrender there.

Smoke billows after shelling on ISIL's last holdout in Baghouz, March 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

Smoke billows after shelling on ISIL's last holdout in Baghouz, March 4, 2019. /VCG Photo

"There are a large number of fighters who are inside and do not want to surrender," said the senior SDF commander.

The fall of Baghouz would mark the end of the rule of ISIL's self-proclaimed "caliphate" in 2014 over a populated territory, although some fighters are still hiding out in remote deserts or have gone underground to wage a guerrilla insurgency.

A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there were preparations in eastern Syria to announce the end of ISIL there. Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition backing the SDF, nevertheless said the international force had "learned not to put any timetables on the last battle."

Syrian military air strikes against jihadist fighters further west, in the country's central desert, were a reminder of the constant warnings by both Arab and Western officials that ISIL will continue to pose a serious security threat.

Women and children evacuated from ISIL's embattled holdout of Baghouz arrive at a screening area held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

Women and children evacuated from ISIL's embattled holdout of Baghouz arrive at a screening area held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

In recent days, hundreds of other jihadists surrendered, though it was not yet clear how many, the commander added.

Those surrendering were among more than 2,000 people who left Baghouz on Wednesday in the latest evacuation, transported by trucks to a patch of desert where they are questioned, searched and given food and water.

The SDF said about 6,500 people had left the area over the previous two days, including hundreds of men. Most civilian evacuees are headed for the al-Hol displacement camp in northeast Syria.

Source(s): Reuters