Fleeing Daesh fighters using civilians as human shields forced to surrender in Baghouz

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard on top of a building during shelling on Daesh's last holdout of Baghouz, in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2019
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Fleeing Daesh fighters using civilians as human shields forced to surrender in Baghouz

  • SDF spokeswoman said the offensive had slowed down but pressure is being kept up
  • US-backed Syrian fighters said they were forced to slow their advance because the extremists were using civilians as shields

BEIRUT:  Around 150 Daesh fighters have surrendered to US-backed forces in Baghouz, the group's last enclave in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group said on Monday.

The Daesh fighters were among 400 people to leave the area on Monday after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces staged an assault in recent days, the Observatory said.

US-backed Syrian fighters said they were forced to slow their advance because the extremists were using civilians as human shields.

But despite this hindrance, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces Mustafa Bali tweeted that the battle to retake Baghouz, the last territory in Syria held by Daesh, was "going to be over soon."

An SDF spokeswoman said the offensive had slowed down but pressure is being kept up away from the corridor to prevent fighters from infiltrating or sabotaging the area. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press.

The US-backed forces resumed their offensive on Baghouz last Friday, after a two-week pause to allow for the evacuation of civilians.

Retaking the sliver of land would be a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to end Daesh's self-proclaimed "caliphate" that once straddled a vast territory across both Syria and Iraq.

"We're slowing down the offensive" due to a small number of civilians held as human shields, Bali said. The previous night, an SDF statement said the Kurdish-led forces would continue their military campaign "to take control of the last ISIS-held pocket in Baghouz and to liberate the remaining civilians who are being used as human shields," using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.

"In order not to harm them, we are advancing slowly but we assert that the battle of Baghouz will end in a short period of time," it said.

 

 

 


US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

Updated 24 May 2019
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US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

  • Donald Trump says the additional troops would serve a 'mostly protective' role
  • The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US will strengthen its force in the Middle East with 1,500 extra troops, Donald Trump said Friday as the Pentagon blamed Iran for an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective.
"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens."

Shortly after his comments, the Pentagon accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the UAE earlier this month, describing it as part of a "campaign" by Tehran driving new US deployments.
"The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC," said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe "the means of delivery" of the mines.

The 1,500 extra troops will be made up of a deployment of 900 more forces, including engineers, and the extension of a tour by some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.

Officials said earlier that members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the force in the region.
Earlier this week, officials said that Pentagon planners had outlined plans that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

*With AP and Reuters