Syria force nets 400 jihadists trying to flee enclave


Near Baghouz (Syria) (AFP)

Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria captured around 400 Islamic State group jihadists as they attempted to slip out of their besieged enclave of Baghouz, a senior officer said Wednesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces intercepted a large group trying to escape from the village, the last tiny patch of territory under IS control, the officer said.

"Four hundred IS fighters tried to flee Baghouz" on Tuesday night, the SDF official said on condition of anonymity.

Their breakout was organised by a network that aimed to spirit them to remote regions, he said without specifying exactly where.

They were on foot and included Syrians as well as fighters from several other nationalities, the officer added.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly jihadist fighters and their relatives, have left IS's last bastions in and around Baghouz in recent weeks.

Among the 3,500 people who poured out of Baghouz on Tuesday following intense bombardment by the SDF and its international allies, 500 were suspected fighters turning themselves in, the SDF said.

Baghouz is the last speck of IS's once-sprawling caliphate, a small farming village nestled in a bend of the Euphrates river by the Iraqi border.

The siege of the jihadists' last holdout is sealed across the border by Iraqi forces and allied militia and on the other side of the river by Syrian regime forces and their proxies.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, at least 6,000 of the 58,000 people who left IS's last bastions since December were jihadists who were subsequently detained.

The loss of Baghouz would signal the end of territorial control for IS but the organisation remains a potent threat and can carry out attacks from hideouts in desert regions in both Syria and Iraq.