US-backed forces say launch final assault against IS in Syria's Manbij

Reuters , Friday 12 Aug 2016

This undated image posted online on Thursday, July. 28, 2016, by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo sharing website, shows Syrian citizens gathered near burned cars after airstrikes hit Manbij, in Aleppo province, Syria (Photo: AP)

US-backed forces battling Islamic State near the Turkish border in northern Syria said on Friday they had launched a final assault to flush the remaining jihadists out of the city of Manbij.

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), with air support from a US-led coalition, said last week they had taken almost complete control of Manbij, where a small number of IS fighters have been holed up.

Friday's attack is "the last operation and the last assault," said Sharfan Darwish, a spokesman for the Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces.

Darwish said roughly 100 Islamic State fighters were left in the centre of the city, and that they were using civilians as human shields. Several civilians were killed trying to flee, he said.

The SDF's offensive, which began at the end of May, quickly captured the countryside surrounding Manbij, but slowed once fighting entered the city. The SDF said it had been avoiding a large-scale assault inside Manbij out of concern for civilians.

Dozens of people were killed in suspected US coalition air strikes last month, residents and monitors said.

The campaign aims to flush Islamic State out of areas it controls along the Turkish border, which was for years a route through which the group moved fighters and weapons.

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