SDF evacuate women and children from Baghouz amid ongoing IS battle

SDF evacuate women and children from Baghouz amid ongoing IS battle
Syrian Democratic Forces were seen evacuating women and children in trailer trucks in Baghouz on Wednesday, as the battle to recapture the town from IS continues.
2 min read
20 March, 2019
Baghouz is the last pocket of IS territory [Getty]

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were on Wednesday spotted transporting women and children over the town of Baghouz in a sign that evacuations were taking place.

The trailer trucks evacuating the civilians were seen whilst black smoke was rising from Baghouz at a captured Islamic State camp.

SDF fighters were also inspecting tunnels a day after seizing most of the last pocket of land held by IS militants, an official said.

Last pocket of IS territory

The long-running battle to retake the last outpost held by IS in eastern Syria appeared to have reached its conclusion, with no signs of battle on Wednesday, although officials said a few remaining IS militants still had not yet surrendered.

Baghouz's fall would mark the end of the devastating four-year campaign to end IS' hold on any kind of territory, although it maintains scattered presence and sleeper cells in both countries.

The battle for Baghouz - including the encampment, a collection of tents covering foxholes and underground tunnels - has dragged on for weeks amid an unexpected exodus of civilians from the area.

The conflict in Syria entered its ninth year last week, and the aid crisis spurred by the dying days of the IS "caliphate" compounded an already bleak humanitarian picture.

Thousands of people who have streamed out of the last IS stronghold now fill overcrowded camps and prisons run by the Kurds further north.

The 70,000 people crammed into the biggest camp - al-Hol - include more than 40,000 children, of dozens of different nationalities.

Meanwhile in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday to discuss coordination between their forces.

"With Russia's support, a significant success in the fight against terrorism has been achieved," Shoigu said.

In Homs, the UN envoy to Syria met with local officials, UN teams as well as displaced Syrians living in camps on the third day of his second visit to the war-torn country.

"Path to a new Syria begins with confidence-building and reconciliation," Geir Pedersen tweeted. "Syrians need to come together to decide and build (a) future."

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