Isis bride: Fighters and families flee remnants of the caliphate

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 14, 2019

On Saturday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led rebel group allied with the United States, started an offensive to expel IS from the village of Baghuz, the last area still under its control in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

"Most of those who got out are foreigners", Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The capture of Baghouz and nearby areas would mark the end of a devastating, four-year, global campaign against the extremist group.

Coalition spokesperson Sean Ryan said US-backed forces were facing a fierce fightback.

"They also don't have other options".

"A group of 600 civilians escaped from Baghouz at one in the morning and they are being searched now", he said.

Abu Jabr al-Shaiti, a commander with the SDF, told The Times that the remnants of the group that once controlled a swathe of Iraq and Syria the size of Britain were surrendering.

"The mostly foreign fighters were put in seven trucks and taken away" by the USA -led coalition and the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Abdurrahman said.

"Most Daesh fighters, especially foreigners, have previous battle experiences in Chechnya and Afghanistan".

Last Saturday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the start of an operation aimed at liberating Baghuz from the terrorist group Daesh*. "If we managed successfully to isolate civilians, we are talking about few days to finish the battle, but if terrorists continued to use civilians as human shields, it might take more than just a few days".

About half were Ukrainian or Russian women and their children, while most of the others were Syrian. The SDF is holding hundreds of foreign fighters it says are a burden on the force, but their own countries don't want them back.

Iraq's prime minister says Baghdad will repatriate Iraqi members of the Islamic State group held by US -backed fighters in Syria.

Abdul-Mahdi's comment came after a meeting he held Tuesday in Baghdad with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official said up to 20,000 Iraqis, including IS fighters, their families and refugees will be brought back home by April where many of them will live in a tent settlement in western Anbar province.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said ISIS members will be interrogated by Iraqi security agencies.

Abdul-Mahdi's announcement came a week after the USA called on other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens who traveled to Syria to fight with IS and who are now being held by Washington's local partners.

The SDF say they detained more than 900 foreign fighters during their US -backed campaign against ISIS in northeastern Syria.

A U.S. State Department official said last week that if the fighters can't be repatriated, though, the detention center on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be used to hold them "where lawful and appropriate".

Sending Islamic State prisoners to Guantanamo would open up new legal challenges, according to experts. Britain refuses to take back citizens who joined IS and has reportedly stripped them of their citizenship. Other European countries have remained largely silent about the fate of men and women whom many see as security threats.

Dozens of coalition and SDF fighters were stationed at a screening point for new arrivals from Daesh areas.

In the past two months, more than 37,000 people, mostly wives and children of jihadist fighters, have fled into SDF-held areas, the Observatory says.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad.

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