French special forces. File photo

ARA News 

MANBIJ – French special forces arrived in northern Syria to assist the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in order to retake the 98-km pocket of Manbij from the radical group near the border with Turkey, French officials confirmed on Thursday.

The French commandos are not participating in combat at the Manbij battlefront. They are restricted to advisory and training roles, according to a French defence ministry official.

“The offensive at Manbij is clearly being backed by a certain number of states including France. It’s the usual support – it’s advisory,” the official told AFP on Thursday. 

Also, about 300 American special forces are in northern Syria to support the Kurdish-led SDF troops in the fight against ISIS with advisory and training. 

France has earlier acknowledged a ground deployment of around 150 members of its special forces in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

SDF storm ISIS positions in Manbij, jihadis evacuate headquarters 

Under heavy shelling by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), hundreds of militants from the Islamic State (ISIS) have evacuated their headquarters in the city of Manbij in the northern countryside of Aleppo province, military sources reported on Wednesday. 

The Western-backed SDF troops closed most of the roads leading to Manbij after taking over dozens of villages to the north, east and south of Manbij city.

The only route that ISIS militants could use to escape was the western exit towards Aleppo.

The ISIS evacuation movement started on Tuesday, when dozens of ISIS vehicles were seen exiting the city through the western suburb of Manbij towards Aleppo.

“Those were most likely defectors who escaped the fighting fronts in the south and east of the city. Also, a number of Sharia officials are believed to have escaped Manbij under the ongoing offensive by the SDF against ISIS there,” media activist Alwan Halabi told ARA News. 

The SDF-led Manbij Military Council reportedly broke into several ISIS security centres in Manbij city on Wednesday, and engaged in clashes with ISIS militants.

“The clashes have eventually reached the city itself after more than a week of fighting ISIS in the countryside of Manbij,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News. “A large number of ISIS terrorists have already escaped the city, using the western exit. This means that the collapse of the group in Manbij is very near.”

“We, the SDF, will soon announce the full liberation of Manbij from ISIS,” the Kurdish official said, adding that the US-led coalition’s air forces have played a key role in enabling the SDF fighters to advance on the ground. 

Also, the Syrian Democratic Forces have facilitated the evacuation of nearly 200,000 civilians from Manbij and its surroundings. 

“After retaking key areas near Manbij, such as Al-Qaraa, Muhtaraq and Buzkej, the SDF troops were able to help more than 200,000 civilians evacuate the area and head to more stable towns. This was to prevent the terror group from using the people as human shields in the ongoing clashes,” a spokesman for the SDF told ARA News.

Manbij constitutes a key pocket of 98-kilometers for ISIS militants. “As to why the Manbij pocket is important, it represents a major border crossing point where foreign fighters can cross into Syria from Turkey,” US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Christopher Garver told ARA News. 

Reporting by: Hozan Mamo and Ahmed Shiwesh 

Source: ARA News 

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