Morocco Takes Back Citizens From Northern Syria: U.S.-Backed SDF

Explosions and fires illuminated columns of smoke over Baghouz village after the Kurdish-led SDF launched the offensive on Sunday evening.

Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted Sunday that the decision to resume the offensive came after thousands of civilians left Baghouz, which is the last village held by IS.

But their home countries have mostly been reluctant to take them back, with Britain stripping several women who have joined IS of their nationalities.

That upended assumptions that few families remained holed up in Baghouz and those who refused to leave or surrender were choosing to die there.

"Most of those folks have moved elsewhere as part of our assessment of their movement toward a more clandestine insurgency or preparing for the next fight when they don't control territory", the official added.

But beyond Baghouz, IS retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and sleeper cells in the northeast.

However, the jihadists remain a menace.

"There's still more", said Umm Aboud from the northern Syrian city of Al-Bab.

Separately and on the other side of Syria, Turkey's defense minister said on Friday Turkish and Russian troops will begin patrols of Syria's northwestern Idlib region, where the two countries have created a de-escalation zone.

The SDF has shipped most people fleeing the wreckage of Islamic State's rule over recent weeks to al-Hol in northeast Syria where some 65,000 people now live in a camp that the United Nations says was built to house 20,000. "These children are children, they are not terrorists", he said.

"No one could have guessed that such a large number of women and children were still living in Baghouz".

In Washington, a senior defense official estimated that almost 20,000 people, including 3,500 to 4,000 adult males, have emerged from Baghouz since February 20. There were many more people in the village, many living in tents, than had been anticipated.

"There are thousands of families leaving".

Footage obtained by AFP from the Free Burma Rangers, a Christian aid group run by a former U.S. special forces operative, showed hundreds of people still remained in the riverside camp.

Flames ravaging the makeshift encampment lit up the night sky.

On Saturday, "only about 100 people left, including three Chinese Uighurs and three Moroccan women", Bali told AFP earlier.

Despite its losses, ISIS has still claimed a series of attacks against SDF forces and coalition forces in eastern Syria.

"The fighting is direct and intense", Bali said.

The evacuees have either been sent to a displaced people's camp to the north or suspected fighters have moved to detention facilities.

The delay was "a deliberate effort, maybe to prepare for something else. what that is though is unclear".

  • Rogelio Becker