Cornered Islamic State group fighters 'refuse to surrender to SDF, seek exit to Idlib'

Cornered Islamic State group fighters 'refuse to surrender to SDF, seek exit to Idlib'
Islamic State fighters trapped in Baghouz and under siege by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are refusing to surrender as it makes its last stand.
2 min read
18 February, 2019
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) rest in Baghouz [Getty Images]

More than 300 Islamic State group fighters trapped in the last square mile held by the group are refusing to surrender to US-backed Syrian forces and are trying to negotiate an exit, a person close to the negotiations said on Monday.

The militant group is making its last stand in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria, where it has been under siege by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The development signals further delay to a declaration on IS' territorial defeat that US backed Syrian forces were hoping to make last week.

The militants are asking for a corridor to the province of Idlib and demand they be allowed to leave along with evacuating civilians.

The New Arab’s correspondent was on the outskirts of Baghouz last week as around 1,000 villagers made a daring escape.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another request by IS to be evacuated to neighbouring Iraq was also rejected. IS released 10 SDF fighters on Sunday, without the guarantee of any concessions in exchange.

The SDF allowed several trucks loaded with food to enter IS-held areas of Baghouz on Monday morning. Media activist Abu Mohammed al-Jazrawi told The New Arab this was in exchange for IS agreeing to release approximately 300 prisoners to the SDF.

A truce reached between SDF and IS last week was reportedly extended for five days on Sunday.

The capture of Baghouz would mark the end of a four year war to end IS’ territorial hold over large parts of Syria and Iraq, where the group established its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2014.

More than 200 members of the IS group, mostly foreign fighters, surrendered themselves to the international coalition forces earlier this week.  

Meanwhile an Iraqi security source told Petra, a Jordanian news agency, that the leader of the IS group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains in a small area in Deir al-Zour with five of his inner circle.

The source added that Iraqi forces were monitoring the military operation in the east, and were ready to prevent any escaping IS members from entering Iraq.