PICS: Last civilians to leave site of Islamic State’s final stand in Syria

Deir Al-Zor, Syria – The last civilians are expected to be evacuated from Islamic State’s final enclave in eastern Syria on Thursday, clearing the way for US-backed forces to attack jihadists still holed up inside, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said.

The village of Baghouz at the Iraqi border is the last scrap of territory left to Islamic State in the Euphrates valley region that became its final stronghold in Iraq and Syria after a series of defeats in 2017.

Taking it will nudge the eight-year-old Syrian war towards a new phase, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw troops leaving a security vacuum that other powers could seek to fill.

The head of the SDF media office, Mustafa Bali, told Reuters the SDF would attack once the civilian evacuation of Baghouz was complete – a process he expected to be finished on Thursday.

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Children and women stand at the back of a truck near the village of Baghouz, in Deir Al Zor province, Syria. Picture: Rodi Said/Reuters

Baghouz, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, is completely surrounded by the SDF.

Bali did not say how much more time was needed to finish off the remaining Islamic State militants or give a fresh estimate of how many fighters remained.

The SDF has previously estimated several hundred fighters – believed mostly to be foreign jihadists – are still inside.

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Women and children ride in the back of a truck that is part of a convoy evacuating hundreds out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants in Baghouz, eastern Syria. Picture: Felipe Dana/AP

The US-led coalition said on Wednesday "the most hardened" jihadists remain in Baghouz.

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Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighbourhood in the village of Baghouz. File picture: Rodi Said/Reuters

More than 2 000 civilians left the enclave on Wednesday, the SDF said. It has said more than 20 000 civilians left Baghouz in the days leading up to the start of the SDF’s final push to capture the enclave this month. 


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