Islamic State's final stand: US-backed Syrian forces advance on Isis

Islamic State's final stand: US-backed Syrian forces advance on Isis

Islamic State's final stand: US-backed Syrian forces advance on Isis

"Some of the Islamic State fighters say they want to die there", she said, claiming only foreign jihadists are left inside.

The jihadists are cornered in a bend of the Euphrates, with Syrian government forces and their allies on the west bank of the Euphrates blocking any escape across the river and Iraqi government forces blocking any move downstream.

Thousands of fighters, followers and civilians had retreated to this tiny cluster of hamlets and farmland in Deir al-Zor province as IS territory shrunk and over the last few weeks, they have poured out, holding up the final assault.

On Friday, Syrian Democratic Forces spokesperson Mustafa Bali announced that the final push against the militants in their last pocket of control-the village of Al-Baghouz in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor-had begun.

Many of those fleeing, almost all of them women and children, were being taken into custody by the SDF.

The fighters hail from a number of countries including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, said an SDF faction which distributed photographs showing men separated from women and small children. Despite its demise, many defended what remained of the group's territorial hold, which once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.

Ciyager, an official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, says 200 more people are expected to evacuate the village of Baghouz later Monday.

"The battle to finish off what is left of Daesh has started", said SDF commander Adnan Afrin, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Its brutal legacy is still raw and the scope of the atrocities committed under its rule continues to emerge, even in areas where its fighters were defeated long ago.

"The IS members who are besieged are refusing to surrender, majority are foreigners, including from France", Hasakeh said.

Retaking the sliver of land would be a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to end the Islamic State's self-proclaimed "caliphate" that once straddled a vast territory across both Syria and Iraq.

"With the tunnels that they dug, we don't know how many of them there are", Sefqan admits.

Almost 300 Syrians suspected of belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group have been freed because they have "no blood on their hands", Kurdish authorities who were holding them said.

The SDF, which launched a broad operation against the jihadists' last bastions in the Euphrates Valley in September, said Friday they had evacuated the last batch of civilians.

"Many of the arrivals are exhausted, hungry and sick", according to Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at a news briefing in Geneva.

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