IS crumbling in last bastion

March 12, 2019 11:47 pm | Updated 11:48 pm IST - Baghouz

Islamic State members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 10, 2019.

Islamic State members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 10, 2019.

Kurdish-led forces on Tuesday said more people were surrendering from the Islamic State group’s last scrap of territory in Syria, after overnight air raids and shelling ravaged jihadist outposts.

A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling IS “caliphate” declared in 2014 across large swaths of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to crush holdout IS fighters for weeks but the mass outpouring of men, women and children from the riverside hamlet has bogged down their advance.

Backed by the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF renewed their assault on Sunday after warning remaining IS fighters that time was up for surrenders.

Airstrikes and shelling have since pummelled Baghouz for two nights in a row, killing scores of fighters and prompting hundreds of jihadists and their relatives to surrender.

“There was fierce fighting.” Ali Cheir, an SDF unit commander, said from a rudimentary outpost inside the village.

“The objective of our advance is to terrorise IS fighters so they surrender, and for the civilians to come out,” said the 27-year-old fighter.

The frontline was quiet Tuesday morning, hours after the airstrikes and rocket attacks on Monday night engulfed the last IS pocket in flames.

The commander said the SDF had slowed its offensive after daybreak to allow for jihadists and their relatives to turn themselves in.

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