IS' last Syria holdout being combed by SDF fighters

IS' last Syria holdout being combed by SDF fighters
SDF forces are combing the Baghouz village for the last IS fighters.
3 min read
21 March, 2019
SDF fighters a combing Baghouz of IS fighters [Getty]
The defeat of the Islamic State group in its last holdout in eastern Syria is due to be announced, with Syrian Democratic Forces combing the tent village for booby traps and the last fighters, officials said on Thursday.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, warned that some IS fighters might still be holding out in tunnels and trenches around the village along the River Euphrates, but once the area is cleared the US-backed force will announce the liberation of Baghouz.

"Our forces are still conducting combing and search operations and as soon as they are finished we will announce the liberation," Mustafa Bali said, according to Reuters.

Agency reporters said on Thursday that Baghouz was quiet for a second day, after SDF overran the encampment this week, following a new assault by the US-backed force.

IS fighters had been holding out in Baghouz, which ballooned from the overspill of family members and militants who moved to the village following an SDF offensive along the Euphrates River.

Thousands of civilians and fighters have left Baghouz over the past weeks, after SDF encircled the village with the defeat of IS appearing inevitable.

Twelve people died at a Syrian refugee camp housing family members of Islamic State group overnight Wednesday, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has said, as the humanitarian situation in Baghouz worsens.

"Last night, another 2,000 women and children arrived at al-Hol camp in northeast Syria from Baghouz. Up to 60 arrivals needed immediate hospitalisation and there were another 12 deaths recorded," IRC said in a statement on Thursday.

Al-Hol was made famous in the UK after it was revealed to be the location of a British woman - Shamima Begum - who moved to Islamic State group territories in 2015, with her baby dying shortly after being hospitalised outside the camp.

Footage from the camp has shown women and children forced to sleep in the open, despite the bitter cold. Al-Hol is said to be home to 72,000 people, including 40,000 children.

Wendy Taeuber, IRC's Iraq and northeast Syria country director, said some of the refugees in the camp are suffering from injuries sustained during the Syrian Democratic Forces battle to take Baghouz camp city.

"These women and children are in the worst condition we have seen since the crisis first began. Many have been caught up in the fighting and dozens have been burnt or badly injured by shrapnel," she said in the statement.

"There have now been at least 138 deaths on the way to al-Hol or soon after arriving at the camp since early December. The deaths have overwhelmingly been of babies and infants," IRC said.

Thousands of civilians left Baghouz after the SDF surrounded the tent village, which is the last redoubt of IS in eastern Syria.

Agencies contribited to this story.