U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have agreed to a proposal with the Islamic State that allows Syrian jihadists to leave the city of Raqqa in exchange for the release of civilians held captive by the ISIS group.
A statement released by SDF stated ISIS fighters are fleeing as the SDF has nearly totally captured Raqqa. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, on Saturday, launched what they deem their final assault against the remaining Islamic State fighters in the city, located in Northern Syria.
So far. Over 3000 civilians have fled the city as part of the evacuation agreement. Foreign fighters for ISIS are not covered in the agreement, however.
“Last night, the final batch of fighters (who agreed to leave) left the city,” said SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali, adding that no foreign fighters had left the city. The SDF later said in a statement that around 275 local fighters and their families had left as part of the deal.
“The final battle will continue until the entire city is cleansed of terrorists, who have refused to surrender,” the SDF said.
However, Omar Alloush, an official in the Raqqa Civilian Council, disputed the SDF’s claim and said a batch of foreign jihadists had also departed with the convoy of local militants.
The US had earlier protested a safe exit for the extremist group. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday the US would accept the surrender of IS militants who would be interrogated for intelligence purposes.
The tribal leaders said they appealed to the coalition and the SDF to allow IS fighters to leave the city to stem further violence.
“Because our aim is liberation, not killing, we appealed to the SDF to arrange for the local fighters and secure their exit to outside of the city with our guarantees,” the tribal chiefs said in a statement.
US statements from the Combined Joint Task Force did not support the freeing of ISIS or Daesh (the local term) fighters in any agreement. But the fight for Raqqa now is down to their final days. The IS also lost the Syrian town of Mayadeen to Syrian government forces that were backed by Russian airstrikes.
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