A report verified on Friday by US-backed forces and a separate human rights organisation claimed that Islamic State militants in the city of Manbij, Syria had kidnapped around 2,000 civilians to use as “human shields.”
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described that during ISIS’ retreat from Manbij to Jarabulus, a city on the Turkish border, the militants took ahold of their hostages in hopes to slow the SDF’s advances on what was once a major ISIS-held city.
In order to accomplish taking such a large number of hostages, a report by the AFP suggests that ISIS took the residents’ cars and forced civilians into them as they made their retreat.
SDF forces began their offensive on May 31, and have so far liberated about 90% of Manbij, and even rescued 2,500 captive civilians; however, dozens of ISIS fighters still remain putting up a noticeable resistance.
This wouldn’t be the first ISIS has taken hostages in their retreat. More than 400 civilians, including women and children, were taken in eastern Syria. Although 270 of them were eventually released, the jihadists have also used hostages for booby-trapped cars and suicide bombings.
Manbij has been a critical Syrian city for ISIS’ supply routes to their main stronghold in Raqqa. After being assaulted not only by SDF forces but US-led coalition forces, the militants here have been making numerous blunders during their operations — including having 83 oil tankers out in the open for an easy airstrike.
But liberating the city took a heavy toll as well. The UN has claimed that more than 78,000 people have been displaced since the assault began; and the Observatory suggested that at least 437 civilians, 105 of them children, were killed.
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