Tue, Mar 26, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Dozens of IS militants leave tunnels to surrender

AFP, BAGHOUZ, Syria

Islamic State group fighters wait to board pick-up trucks after surrendering to Syrian Democratic Forces in the village of Baghouz, Syria, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Dozens of Islamic State (IS) group militants on Sunday emerged from tunnels to surrender to US-backed forces in eastern Syria, a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Syria’s Kurds warned that despite the demise of the proto-state, the thousands of foreign militants they have detained are a time-bomb the world urgently needs to defuse.

A reporter saw dozens of people — mostly men — file out of the militant’s battered encampment in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks.

Some sported thick beards and wore long woolen kaftans over their dark-colored robes, or a checkered scarf around their faces, as they trudged out of their final hideout under the drizzle.

“They are IS fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Kurdish spokesman Jiaker Amed said. “Some others could still be hiding inside.”

World leaders were quick to hail Saturday’s announcement by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the last shred of land controlled by IS in Syria had been conquered, but the top foreign affairs official for the Kurdish region said that IS members captured during the assault still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar said.

“Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation,” he said.

“There are thousands of children who have been raised according to IS ideology,” he said. “If these children are not re-educated and re-integrated in their societies of origin, they are potential future terrorists.”

“There has to be coordination between us and the international community to address this danger,” he added.

He also warned of the continuing danger posed by IS sleeper cells.

The SDF is continuing to carry out operations to rout out any remaining militants in the area and uncover possible weapons caches.

“This back-clearance operation will be deliberate and thorough and help ensure the long-term security for the area,” the US-led coalition backing the SDF wrote on Twitter.

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