- The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said they captured Baghouz, the last piece of ISIS’s “caliphate” over the weekend.
- ISIS militants who remained on the ground had reportedly used their wives and children on the front lines.
- The terror group has a long history of using civilians as human shields to slow offensive advances against it.
- Some 60,000 fighters, women, and children have fled Baghouz over the past few weeks.
ISIS fighters who stayed in the terror group’s last piece of territory before it succumbed to US-backed forces used their wives and children and human shields, multiple reports say.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday that they had taken over Baghouz, an eastern Syrian village considered to be the last bastion of ISIS’s so-called “caliphate.”
ISIS fighters placed thousands of women and children on the battle’s front lines to slow offensive advances against them, The Associated Press (AP) and ITV reported. ITV described the civilians as being “kept in harms way for the sake of the caliphate.”
ISIS has a long history of putting women and children on front lines to slow or stop offensive advances against it.
In February the SDF suspended their attacks on the militant group in Deir Ezzor, the Syrian region where Baghouz is located, because the ISIS fighters were “using the civilians as human shields to block our advance,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Over the past few weeks ISIS told fighters and their families that they could leave Baghouz if they want.
Since SDF launched an offensive on Baghouz in February some 60,000 people – mostly women and children – left the village for the nearby al-Hawl refugee camp, according to Reuters. Bombardment from the SDF and food shortages were so severe that some people resorted to cooking grass for their meals.
More than 100 people died during, or soon after, the journey from Baghouz to al-Hawl, the AP cited aid organizations as saying.
It is not clear exactly how many militants and their families remained in Baghouz. According to CNN, the SDF estimated before its offensive there were 1,500 civilians and 500 fighters remaining, but later said the figure was likely much higher.
Among those people who escaped Baghouz were 19-year-old Shamima Begum, a British national, and 46-year-old Kimberly Polman, a US and Canadian dual citizen. Both women are trying to return home.