Allied Arab and Kurdish fighters seized full control on Friday of the northern Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border, freeing more than 2,000 hostages, who had been used as human shield by Islamic State group fighters.
The Syria Democratic Forces, SDF, conducted military sweeps of the city after the departure of the last remaining group of militants who had been holed up in the city, Sharfan Darwish of the SDF-allied Manbij Military Council told Reuters.
The SDF’s offensive, which includes support from a U.S.-led coalition, began at the end of May, and aims to remove the Islamic State from areas it controls along the Turkish border.
Dozens of civilians, including children and women from Manbij who had fled the city at the height of the aerial strikes, were killed in suspected U.S. coalition air strikes last month, residents and monitors said.
Tens of thousands of people lived in Manbij before the assault started. The United Nations has said more than 78,000 people have been displaced since then.
Sources told Reuters on Friday that around 500 cars had left Manbij carrying Islamic State group members and civilians. They were heading northeast towards Jarablus, a town under Islamic State group control on the Turkish border.
The Islamic State group has repeatedly used civilians as human shields, booby-trapped cars and carried out suicide bombings to slow advances by their opponents and avoid coming under attack.
Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011. Since then more than 290,000 people have been killed and world powers have been drawn in on all sides of the war.