Syrian fighters start to evacuate civilians from IS pocket - spokesman

by Reuters
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 11:04 GMT

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) drink tea in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo

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A large convoy of trucks entered the village of Baghouz on Tuesday to begin the evacuation, but did not leave by nightfall

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Trucks began evacuating civilians from Islamic State's last pocket of ground in east Syria on Wednesday, a spokesman for U.S.-backed fighters there said, a step seen as crucial towards the final capture of the area.

Reporters at the front line saw dozens of trucks leaving the village. A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mustafa Bali, said they were carrying out civilians.

A large convoy of trucks had entered the village of Baghouz on Tuesday to begin the evacuation, but had not left by nightfall.

Both the SDF and U.S. officials have said the presence of civilians in Islamic State's last pocket at Baghouz, targeted by air strikes again on Tuesday night, has slowed their advance.

Islamic State fighters still hold out in a remote area of desert in central Syria, and have staged guerrilla attacks in parts of Syria and Iraq that they have lost.

EXPLAINER-Does Islamic State still pose a threat?

Separate military campaigns pushed the group from most of its territory in 2017, including the cities of Mosul and Raqqa, some three years after it seized huge territories in a sudden blaze of success.

(Reporting by Rodi Said near Baghouz, Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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