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January 24, 2019 » Today News

Hundreds of bodies found in mass graves near former ISIS stronghold

Hundreds of bodies found in mass graves near former ISIS stronghold

Kurdish forces unearthed two mass graves containing hundreds of unidentified bodies near the former ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

The graves contain up to 1,000 bodies, the war monitor estimates. It was not immediately clear if they were civilians or fighters.

The northern Syrian city was once the de facto capital of ISIS in Syria and was liberated in a campaign that ended more than two years ago, but rescuers and early recovery teams continue to find mass graves scattered around the city.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces pressed ahead with a final push to drive ISIS from its last sliver of territory east of the Euphrates River on Thursday, according to the war monitor.

The Kurdish-led force engaged in battles with militants and launched artillery attacks on ISIS positions.

This comes one day after the SDF, backed by coalition forces, overran the last major village under militant control.

ISIS is now confined to small farmlands around the Al Baghouz area. Activists believe a declaration of victory is imminent. The US coalition, however, said it would not issue a timetable.

Kurdish-led forces, backed by air strikes of the US-led coalition, have been battling since September to expel militants from their enclave in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

The battles have killed more than 1,000 ISIS militants and more than 600 SDF fighters.

The fighting has also displaced thousands of civilians, many of whom are now languishing in informal settlements in Kurdish-held parts of eastern Syria.

The Observatory said more than 5,000 people, including hundreds of militants, had fled ISIS territory on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River since Monday.

Battles against ISIS in eastern Syria gained pace after US President Donald Trump last month announced he would withdraw US forces from the country.

The coalition also stepped up air strikes against militants after ISIS attacked American personnel in the northern Syrian city of Manbij last week.

The suicide bombing killed four American personnel and 15 other people. The US losses were the biggest since Washington entered the conflict in 2014.

On Monday, ISIS attacked a US Army convoy in the town of Al Shadadeh in north-east Syria. The US-led coalition said no American troops were killed in the car bombing.

Source: The National