BAGHOUZ: Kurdish-led forces in Syria said on Friday they expect a fierce battle with Daesh militants. Mustafa Bali, head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media office, said that Daesh militants were still holed up inside the area and had not surrendered, and that there were still civilians in the enclave. The SDF plans to evacuate another large group of civilians on Friday, he said.

“We won’t storm the village and declare it liberated unless we have completely confirmed the departure of civilians,” he said. “We expect a fierce battle.”

Kurdish-led forces in Syria extracted hundreds more people from the ruins of the Daesh territory and prepared on Friday for a final assault against militants hunkered down for a desperate last stand.

The SDF evacuated several hundred people late Thursday from Baghouz, a hamlet by the Euphrates where the territory looks set to peter out.

“Many foreigners from various nationalities were among them,” SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said without specifying which ones.

“We just took over – you know, you kept hearing it was 90 per cent, 92 per cent – the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 per cent. We just took over,” he said.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led international coalition which supports the SDF said the Kurdish-led Syrian group had adopted a “slow and deliberate” approach to Baghouz.

“They are dealing with multiple dilemmas and trying to stabilise the area,” Colonel Sean Ryan said.

On Thursday, another SDF spokesman, Adnan Afrin, said his force was waiting to complete evacuations from Baghouz before launching a final push to defeat the militants.

“We want the evacuation operations to finish as soon as possible so we can move to the next phase: an assault or the surrender” of the jihadists still inside, Afrin said.

Mazloum Kobani, the general commander of the Kurdish-led force, also said the epilogue of the operation against DAesh’s Euphrates Valley heartland, launched in September last year, could drag on another week.

“In around one week, we will declare complete victory over Daesh,” he said.

Kobani was speaking in a video released by the SDF’s media office on Thursday of his visit to SDF fighters who were released after being held hostage for three weeks by Daesh.


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