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  Residents flee as Syria troops near Manbij

Residents flee as Syria troops near Manbij

AFP
Published : Jun 8, 2016, 7:18 am IST
Updated : Jun 8, 2016, 7:18 am IST

Thousands of civilians on Tuesday fled a key town along ISIS supply lifeline in northern Syria as US-backed fighters closed in from three sides.

Thousands of civilians on Tuesday fled a key town along ISIS supply lifeline in northern Syria as US-backed fighters closed in from three sides.

The offensive on the town of Manbij is one of two major assaults on the jihadist supply line from the Syrian-Turkish border to ISIS bastion of Raqqa.

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces alliance began its offensive against Manbij just over a week ago, crossing the Euphrates River and pushing west towards the town.

“We have surrounded Manbij from three sides and operations are progressing well,” said Sherfan Darwish, who is leading the SDF offensive.

“Every day, we are liberating villages and the only route open to IS now is towards Aleppo city” to the west, Mr Darwish told AFP by phone.

Overnight, SDF forces edged to within five kilometres of Manbij from the north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

SDF fighters had pushed to within two kilometres of the town to the south and around seven kilometres to the east.

 

“Daesh has begun allowing civilians to flee towards the west, whereas before they had banned anyone from leaving,” Observa-tory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. He said some were in cars but many were carrying their belongings and walking along unpaved roads as ISIS fighters remained in the town.

Manbij, in Syria’s border province of Aleppo, had a pre-war population of about 1,20,000 — mostly Arabs, but about a quarter Syrian Kurds.

ISIS overran the town in early 2014, just months before gaining international infamy by declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.

The “Manbij pocket” was the only remaining section of territory used by ISIS to smuggle recruits or funds from Turkey across the border.

 

Location: Lebanon, Beirut