IS militants given '48 hours' to leave Manbij alive

IS militants given '48 hours' to leave Manbij alive
Kurdish-led forces gave Islamic State militants 48 hours to leave Manbij in northern Syria, days after coalition bombing killed dozens of civilians.
2 min read
21 July, 2016
The Syrian Democratic Forces also urged civilians distance themselves from areas of clashes [AFP]
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces gave Islamic State group militants 48 hours to leave their stronghold in Manbij to "protect civilian lives" in the city from Thursday.

"This initiative is the final chance for IS militants to leave the city alive," the group said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by The New Arab.

"In order to protect civilian lives and preserve the city from destruction, we accept the initiative as the last remaining chance for the besieged members of Daesh [IS] to leave the town taking individual light weapons with them," the Manbij Military Council warned, which is part of the SDF alliance.

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces also urged civilians to "keep away from fighting zones" and distance themselves from areas where clashes are taking place, the statement added.

There was no explanation of what will happen after the two-day deadline expires.

The warning came two days after strikes launched by the US-led coalition fighting IS killed at least 56 civilians fleeing a town near Manbij.

The US have said the civilians were killed by mistake and investigators will probe the matter.

Coalition warplanes have carried out intense raids in support of the SDF fighters as they seek to oust IS from Manbij and surrounding areas.

One SDF commander told AFP that tribal leaders in Manbij had suggested a 48-hour ultimatum last week.

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"We took this decision now after IS used residents as human shields, after the media pressure on us, and to protect whatever civilians are left in the town," the commander said on condition of anonymity.

But the SDF's move was criticised as a step too late.

"If IS militants were allowed out from the beginning, the city would have avoided the civilian losses and destruction it endured," journalist Adnan al-Hussein told The New Arab.

"IS may not accept this initiative as they already have little left to lose," he added.

The death of dozens of civilians - including many children - in US-led air raids earlier this week provoked local protests as well as opposition calls for a halt to air raids in civilian areas.

Meanwhile clashes and air raids continued on Thursday in Manbij, where SDF forces advanced overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said SDF fighters seized a southern district of the town, "bringing them the closest they have been to the centre of Manbij".

Agencies contributed to this report.