|Date: Mar 13, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Another 2,000 mostly Daesh fighters surrender|
|BAGHOUZ, Syria: Kurdish-led forces said around 2,000 people, mostly Daesh (ISIS) militants, surrendered from the militant group’s last scrap of territory in Syria Tuesday, as air raids and shelling resumed after a brief lull. Airstrikes and shelling have since pummeled Baghouz three nights in a row, killing scores of Daesh gunmen and prompting hundreds of extremists and their relatives to surrender.|
“Around 2,000 people, mostly fighters, have handed themselves over today,” SDF spokesperson Adnan Afrin told AFP, without adding how many remain inside.
The Baghouz enclave was pounded overnight with barrages of rockets and fires raged inside, but the situation was calm Tuesday morning.
“The operation is over, or as good as over, but requires a little more time to be completed practically on the ground,” SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel told Al-Hadath TV.
Gabriel said at least 25 Daesh gunmen had been confirmed killed so far in clashes, in addition to an unknown number of militants killed by airstrikes. Another SDF official earlier said 38 militants had been confirmed killed.
The SDF, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has been advancing slowly into Baghouz to minimize its losses from sniper fire and landmines.
Three SDF fighters have been killed, Bali said on Twitter.
Daesh’s defenses include extensive tunnels. The militant group’s most hardened foreign fighters are holed up inside the enclave, the SDF has said.
However the United States does not believe any senior Daesh leaders are in Baghouz, assessing they have gone elsewhere as part of the group’s shift toward guerrilla tactics, a U.S. defense official has said.
Daesh militants issued a defiant message calling on supporters around the world to carry out attacks in their defense. The group tried to enshrine an image for the future after defeat, depicting its crumbling domain as the one place ruled by “God’s law” and promising it would one day be victorious.
The messaging came in an audio recording and video that was released online by militants said to be inside Baghouz.
In the recently released video, Daesh militants sought to reshape their message for the future, insisting the group stayed true to a vision that will outlast them. Scenes in the video show what appear to be streets in Baghouz as a truck of Daesh’s religious police circulates, calling through a loudspeaker to people around to remain pious and seek God’s forgiveness. It is not clear when the video was recorded, and its contents could not be independently confirmed.
At one point a militant identified only as Abu Abdel-Azim talks to the camera as he and his comrades eat soup - likely intended to show that the gunmen still have food. A young boy sits next to him.
By the “standards of this world,” Daesh may seem to have been defeated, Abu Abdel-Azim says. “If we used to hold thousands of kilometers and now only a few kilometers remain, it is said that we lost. That is by the standards of this world. But the standards of the Other World and Almighty God are different,” he says.
“What is our crime? Why are we bombarded by war planes? Why has the entire world of infidels come together to fight us? ... It is because we wanted to implement God’s Law,” he says with a smile. “There is no group in the world that ruled by the Quran and Sunna except this select group. That is victory ... So we are patient. Victory and endurance means sticking to what God Almighty loves.”
In a separate audio recording, 1 1/2-minutes long, an unidentified Daesh militant calls on Muslim “brothers, in Europe and in the whole world” to “rise against the Crusaders and ... take revenge for your religion.” As the man speaks, cracks of gunfire can be heard in the background, apparently meant to suggest that he is in Baghouz. He said men, women and children in Baghouz are being subjected to a “holocaust by the Crusaders,” which is militant jargon for the U.S.-led coalition against Daesh.
The audio was released by Daesh supporters on social media and reported by the SITE Intelligence Group late Monday.