Al-Masri holding a young man who was able to escape ISIS in Manbij. Photo: ARA News
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MANBIJ – Radical group of the Islamic State (ISIS) is holding hundreds of civilians hostage in a Syrian town north of Aleppo province, where heavy fighting continued Tuesday between the group and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Omar al-Masri, a fighter with the Shams al-Shamal (Northern Sun) Battalions –a rebel group fighting alongside the US-backed SDF– said that their forces have liberated most of Manbij city north of Aleppo from ISIS militants.
“ISIS only holds 3% of the city now, but the group has taken civilians as hostage,” Masri told ARA News in central Manbij.
He said it’s difficult to attack the group’s final position in the city. “After securing the civilian people, we will take all of Manbij within hours,” he said.
Masri pointed out that his family member has been captured by ISIS, and that ISIS threatened to kill her if the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) come closer.
“We will take our town, we promised this to Abu Layla [former rebel leader in Manbij killed by ISIS]. We have taken the security square,” he added.
Estimates suggest that there are still approximately 1,000 civilians left in the last remaining ISIS-held pockets in the city. The huge presence of civilians makes it more difficult for coalition jets to hit ISIS positions.
The ARA News reporter didn’t hear any airstrike on Tuesday.
Furthermore, ISIS is using civilians as human shields and does not allow them to leave. “My brother died after an ISIS sniper shot him in the neck, he was like a flower,” a young girl told ARA News.
“ISIS militants are barbarians, I saw with my own eyes how a baby died, and dogs ate his body. Those are not human,” another child said.
“They used to kill people and tie them in the square and told us to come and record it on video,” another girl said.
The number of ISIS fighters in the city is still limited. But most likely most of them are snipers, SDF fighters say.
“There are only maybe 100 Daesh [ISIS] militants left in the city, together with their families,” al-Masri said.
An eyewitness said that some of ISIS fighters have escaped to Jarabulus.
Omar al Masri showed ARA News around the former headquarters of the Hisba police force inside Manbij market, where there were still many documents of ISIS morality police.
Still chains of ISIS were lying on the ground. “This was used to torture people,” he said.
Moreover, hundreds of civilians escaped on Tuesday, but several of them died due to ISIS snipers and mines.
One baby which was only a few months old died when his family tried to escape ISIS-held district in Manbij.
“They tried to get out, and we finished ISIS, but a child got killed by a mine,” Masri said. “eyewitnesses tell us that they [ISIS] put civilians in the frontline, and snipers use civilians as human shields,” he added.
SDF fighters say they are using explosives to clear out roads from mines.
Nevertheless, civilians still get killed.
“War is dirty,” said heval Sipan, a local SDF commander. “It’s all about interests and money. But the morale of ISIS is broken, they cannot resist anymore,” he told ARA News.
“The Manbij operation is almost finished. Hopefully it’s over soon,” he added.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News