Last IS enclave push blunted by discovery of civilians

Associated Press
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sit atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghouz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. U.S.-backed Syrian forces are clearing two villages in eastern Syria of remaining Islamic State militants who are hiding among the local population, and detaining others attempting to flee with the civilians, the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday.

Al-Omar Oil Field Base, Syria – A commander with the Kurdish-led force fighting the Islamic State group says the offensive on the militants’ last enclave in eastern Syria has been blunted by the discovery of hundreds of civilians still living there.

The U.S.-backed force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces launched the offensive to liberate the IS-held village of Baghouz a week ago, after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated through a corridor from the area in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

Adnan Afrin tells the Associated Press that in the last three days, IS has brought up hundreds of civilians from underground tunnels to make the SDF and U.S.-led coalition aware of their presence.

He says the discovery has blunted the offensive. “We do not want to cause a massacre.”