Landmines prevent Manbij residents from returning home

Landmines prevent Manbij residents from returning home
Landmines laid by IS prevent thousands of residents from returning to Manbij while the fate of scores of kidnapped residents remains unclear.
3 min read
16 August, 2016
Thousands were forced to leave Manbij after IS took control of the area [AFP]
Although the northern Syrian town of Manbij is now controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), many who were forced out of the city during the Islamic State group's control of the area are unable to return due to landmines around the city.

The death traps are preventing thousands of residents from returning home.  

"Mines have claimed the lives of 200 people since the start of military operations, including a doctor and a lawyer," said Ahmed Mohammed, a human rights activist in the Syrian Institute of Justice, adding that mines were laid in places where children play.

The process of clearing the mines is controlled by the SDF, but engineering teams are complaining of a lack of equipment.  

The military council of Manbij had announced that it found a warehouse used by IS to store mines and booby-traps.

Besides the danger of mines, residents of Manbij are suffering from severe poverty, having been trapped for more than two months without income or aid.  

"The people of Manbij need intense assistance and humanitarian organisations should assume their responsibilities in the area," Mohammed said, adding that the local council formed by Kurds should help to alleviate the situation.

Hundreds of families in Manbij also demand to know the fate of their loved-ones detained by IS.
One woman burned a black robe that the extremists had forced residents to wear, while men who had to live under a shaving ban cut their beards.
"IS hold around 400 prisoners from people of the city, who were moved to prisons in Raqqa and al-Bab at the start of the operations," Mohammed added.  The detainees' whereabouts are currently unknown.  

IS forces recently released 500 civilians, including women and children, whom the group used as human shields to detract coalition forces from bombing.  

"Before they were ousted, IS fighters took 500 civilians, including women, children and the elderly with them to the Jarablos road, shooting those who escaped," Mohammed said.

Other reports estimate that IS took up to 2000 civilians hostage.  

Kurdish television showed footage of jubilant civilians in Manbij, including smiling mothers who had shed their veils and women embracing Kurdish fighters who ousted IS militants from the area last week. 

One woman burned a black robe that the extremists had forced residents to wear, while men who had to live under a shaving ban cut their beards.

Syrian Democratic Forces - a coalition of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters - began an operation to capture Manbij on 21 May, and have since then wrested control of more than 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) of territory from IS.

Manbij is a key town in the anti-IS struggle because the militants were using it as a waypoint between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the group's de facto "capital".

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 437 civilians - including more than 100 children - were killed in the battle for Manbij and surrounding territory, with many being killed by US airstrikes.

The battle also claimed the lives of 300 SDF fighters, along with more than 1,000 IS militants.