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ISIS Militants Escape After Russian Raid on Idlib

ISIS Militants Escape After Russian Raid on Idlib

Thursday, 14 March, 2019 - 09:45
Around 3,000 ISIS fighters have surrendered from the group's last holdout in Syria. (Reuters photo)
Baghouz, London- Asharq Al-Awsat
Several ISIS members fled a prison in northwest Syria’s Idlib province, following Russian airstrikes coordinated with Ankara.

Russia’s defense ministry confirmed it had hit Idlib in coordination with Turkey, targeting drones and weapons stores of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants it said were intended for use in an attack on a major Russian airbase near the Mediterranean coast.

Idlib residents said Russian aircraft conducted at least 12 aerial strikes on residential areas, including a prison on its outskirts, where they said dozens of prisoners escaped. At least 10 civilians were killed and 45 injured. More than 100 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the year.

ISIS is living its "final moments" in northeast Syria after the thunderous shelling by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led international coalition against Baghouz enclave pushed 3,000 of their fellow fighters to surrender in the past two days, according to an AFP report.

ISIS launched two counter-attacks in Baghouz on forces besieging their final shred of territory in eastern Syria on but was beaten back without any progress, the SDF said. The group launched the second counter-attack in the afternoon, “taking advantage of smoke and dust over Baghouz”, the SDF media office said. “Fighting is still continuing. ISIS made no progress so far and were stopped.”

ISIS presence in Baghouz is limited to a random camp surrounded by agricultural lands near the Iraqi border.

"ISIS's final moments have started," SDF official Jiaker Amed told AFP Wednesday.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said about 3,000 fighters had handed themselves over to the SDF. "The battle is ongoing and the final hour is now closer than ever," he said.

Coalition spokesman Sean Ryan on Wednesday said ISIS has no room to maneuver. "There is no freedom of movement at night for the enemy," he told AFP.

"Combined with the SDF ground movement against the final enclave, progress is being made and their capabilities are being severely destroyed,” Ryan added.

Since December, about 60,000 people have left the last ISIS redoubt. The identities of men, women, and children of the group families were inspected after they departed. Suspects to be extremists were moved to detention centers while children and women to camps in the northeast of the country.

Further, the group released a video late Monday on Telegram calling on followers to stay strong. "It is said we have lost -- but God's judging standard is different.”

"The battles are not over," it added.

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