Over thousands of foreign jihadists could still be taking shelter among civilians in Islamic State’s final bastion in east Syria, an iota of land riddled with defensive tunnels an official with the US-backed force trying to crush them.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia has encircled the rebels at the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border and is trying to finish the eviction of civilians from the tiny strip before storming it or compelling the forces surrender.
During the whole of its constant advance across the Syrian expanse of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, the SDF has been delayed by the group’s considerable use of tunnels and human beings as their shields, a tactics which is still being used in Baghouz.
Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman stated that it is expected that there are still undiscovered tunnels. Hence, it’s creating a great problem for the military.
The seizure of Baghouz will finish a campaign of conventional battle which started in the ruins of Kobani on Syria’s border with Turkey in late 2014, when the SDF’s biggest component, the Kurdish YPG militia, obstructed then progress of the jihadist.
It was the high water mark for the caliphate that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had announced earlier that year from a medieval mosque in Mosul, northern Iraq, followed by years of steady jihadist blow that now round off in the large plain of eastern Syria.
Regardless of the loss of its territory in Iraq and Syria, however, local and Western officials cautioned that the group still poses a risk there, going underground and using guerrilla tactics to attack its opponents.
On the long road that passes through the SDF territory to Baghouz, there are many checkpoints managed by the Kurdish Asayish security force, and SDF officials cautioned of attacks and bomb-rigged motorcycles.
Bali stated around 6,000 civilians has come out of Baghouz in recent days, many of them jihadists’ wives and children. Around 20,000 had already left over the preceding weeks before the final phase of the siege started.