More than 2,000 civilians held captive by ISIS as human shields have been freed after militants were driven out of a key stronghold in Syria.
Jubilant scenes greeted the end of weeks of battles as men, women, and children rushed onto the streets now controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC).
The retreat from the city, which Islamic State captured in 2014, marked the jihadists’ worst defeat yet at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish alliance supported by US air strikes.
Families ran through rubble-strewn streets carrying their babies and belongings just after the ruins of buildings destroyed in air strikes.
A small rush of people turned into a flow of hundreds of civilians, followed by dozens of cars, lorries, and vans packed with families finally freed from ISIS.
Colonel Chris Garver, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition, hailed the capture of Manbij, Syria as a “strategic loss” for the so-called Islamic State.
Kurdish television showed men jubilantly having their beards cut off as women ripped off their veils and set them on fire to declare freedom from the extremist terror outfit.
ISIS forces women to wear the burqa, which covers the entire body apart from the eyes, as part of its interpretation of Sharia law and has also made beards obligatory for men in some strongholds.
One middle-aged man broke down in tears of relief and joy, while female SDF fighters and civilians shared emotional hugs. The whole picture of solace depicted the torture that has been fabricated by ISIS time and again on the innocent people!
The predominantly Kurdish rebels, backed by the US-led coalition, have been fighting towards Manbij for more than two months under the cover of international air strikes.
Sharfan Darwish, from the SDF-allied Manbij military council, told Reuters:
“While withdrawing from a district of Manbij, Daesh [ISIS] jihadis abducted around 2,000 civilians from the Al-Sirb neighbourhood.”
“They used these civilians as human shields as they withdrew to Jarabulus, thus preventing us from targeting them.”
According to the Observatory, 437 civilians, including more than 100 children, were killed in the battle for Manbij and surrounding territory.
Around 300 SDF fighters died, along with more than 1,000 jihadists, it said.
Since fighting for Manbij began, US-led strikes have taken out more than 50 of ISIS’s heavy weapons and destroyed more than 600 fortified fighting positions, Pentagon deputy press secretary Gordon Trowbridge said.
“IS is clearly on the ropes.” “It has lost the centre of Manbij, it has lost control of Manbij,” he said.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 and has since killed more than 290,000 people and drawn in the world powers on all sides of the war.
As quoted by a journalist earlier who was held as a hostage for ten months, ‘Bombing they expect. What they fear is unity!’