IS fighters free hundreds of civilians hostages in north Syria | world-news | Hindustan Times
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IS fighters free hundreds of civilians hostages in north Syria

The Islamic State has freed hundreds of civilians used by the jihadists as human shields while retreating in northern Syria, US-backed forces and a monitor said on Saturday

world Updated: Aug 13, 2016 17:43 IST
AFP
An Islamic State (IS) flag is seen in this picture illustration. IS fighters have abducted about 2000 civilians  to use as human shields in a north Syria town.
An Islamic State (IS) flag is seen in this picture illustration. IS fighters have abducted about 2000 civilians to use as human shields in a north Syria town.(REUTERS)

The Islamic State has freed hundreds of civilians used by the jihadists as human shields while retreating in northern Syria, US-backed forces and a monitor said on Saturday.

A source from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which pushed IS out of the city of Manbij this week with the aid of US-led air strikes, told AFP that some of the civilians were able to escape while “others were freed”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, said that several hundred of the civilians taken were no longer held by IS.

A civilian carries a child as he walks with others after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij. (REUTERS)

The SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance, launched an assault in May on Manbij, on a key jihadist supply route between the Turkish border and IS’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.

IS fighters seized around 2,000 civilians as they fled Manbij on Friday, using them as protection against air strikes en route to the jihadist-held town of Jarabulus, on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“Among the civilians taken by IS there were people used as human shields but also many who chose voluntarily to leave the town due to fear of reprisals” by the SDF, observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Women carry newborn babies while reacting after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from Manbij. (REUTERS)

The jihadists, who have suffered a string of losses in Syria and Iraq, have often staged mass abductions when they come under pressure to relinquish territory they hold.

IS has also booby-trapped cars and carried out suicide bombings to slow advances by their opponents.

According to the observatory, 437 civilians, including more than 100 children, were killed in the battle for Manbij and surrounding territory. Around 300 SDF fighters died, along with more than 1,000 jihadists, it said.