MANBIJ – The US-led coalition on Friday confirmed that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken control of 50 per cent of Manbij border pocket from the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), but that the fight in Manbij is much more different from Ramadi or Fallujah, with ISIS using civilians as bait and human shields, slowing down the operation.
“So the Daesh leaders in Manbij were using the civilians — we talked about human shields — but using them as bait to try to draw us into shooting civilians as well,” said Colonel Chris Garver, a spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS campaign. “They were trying to draw the SDF into shooting civilians as well. That was happening before the convoy strike.
“So that was clearly, whoever was in charge of Manbij — that was a decision that they made to use those civilians in that way before they saw the results of what happened in Fallujah,” Garver said.
Manbij is different
As a result, the fight in Manbi “is different than what we’ve seen in Fallujah, what we’ve seen in Ramadi, what we’ve seen in some of the small towns in Qayyarah, in that area,” the coalition spokesperson added.
The coalition thinks that ISIS is making the fight tough, since they realize how important the Manbij pocket is for ISIS to have an open corridor from Raqqa to the West.
“And they are fighting like it is of that strategic importance to them. So, they also control — like I said, we think at least a couple of thousand civilians inside the city as well, which was why the fight is being very slow and very deliberate, and moving forward very specifically, very deliberately,” he said.
“It is not a fast rush into the city. They are being very careful about how they fight this,” the spokesperson said about the SDF.
“When you realize Daesh [ISIS] is sending civilians out towards the lines trying to draw fire, so that they can use that either as a propaganda tool, or in some way get a benefit from the SAC accidentally killing civilians, that keeps that very deliberate. That keeps it very, very specific and very, very deliberate as you’re working through the city,” he concluded.
“In spite of these tactics, the SAC [part of SDF] is maintaining their deliberate forward momentum with support from coalition strikes. Since the beginning of the offensive on May 31st, the coalition has conducted more than 500 strikes in support of this operation,” Garver concluded.
The US-led coalition spokesperson also said that possible civilian casualties done by the coalition will be investigated. According to Western media reports, some 10-73 civilians were killed in air strikes in Manbij.
“The incident is being looked into to determine what we can about that strike,” Garver said.
“During that portion of the fight, our SAC [SDF] partner force observed a large group of Daesh fighters in a convoy who appeared to be readying for a counter attack against SAC troops in the area, and a strike was called in on Daesh,” he added.
“The strike was against both buildings and vehicles. Afterwards, we received reports from several sources, both internal and external, that there may have been civilians in the area who are mixed in and among the Daesh fighters,” Garver said.
“As per our procedure, we are reviewing all available evidence to determine if the information we have is credible enough to warrant a formal investigation,” he said.
The coalition spokesman said that the US-led coalition applies an “extraordinary amount of rigor into our strike clearance procedures to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the law of armed conflict.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News