Hundreds flee US-backed Syria battle for last IS holdout

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He said the IS and other extremist groups continue to take hostages, participate in the illegal trade in drugs and agricultural products, and the sale of organs and cultural artifacts-and they are constantly looking for new sources of income. They have been fighting back with suicide vehicle bombs, sniper fire and booby traps, and have used civilians as human shields, according to the SDF.

Coalition forces and SDF fighters stood over about 20 men who were crouching on the ground.

Hundreds of people fled the IS holdout in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said.

He said most of those remaining were Iraqis and foreigners and that few civilians remained in the tiny area still controlled by IS, although women and children continued to trickle out of the enclave.

"The SDF are firing rockets", he said, and both sides were locked in heavy clashes on the edges of Baghouz village.

The SDF launched the battle to expel IS from the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor in September, slowly tightening the noose around the jihadists and their families since December.

Since then, more than 1,300 SDF fighters and 650 jihadists have been killed, while more than 400 civilians have also lost their lives.

The SDF has warned they may not be able to continue to hold the ISIS fighters after the withdrawal of American forces from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump in December.

That figure includes some 3,400 suspected jihadists detained by the SDF, according to the monitor.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi made the comments during a press conference following a meeting with Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US has identified about 50 people among the more than 900 held by Syrian forces as "high value" suspects that could be transported to Guantanamo if they are not repatriated.

Trump's pull-out announcement shocked Washington's allies, as well as U.S. military commanders. The SDF is holding hundreds of foreign fighters it says are a burden on the force, but their own countries don't want them back.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk on the rubble of damaged shops and buildings in the city of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, Aug. 10, 2016.

A senior Pentagon official told reporters travelling with Shanahan that Washington was pressing its allies to repatriate their nationals.

The United Kingdom has refused to take back their citizens who joined the Islamic State and has reportedly stripped them of their citizenships, AP reported. It's been a message we've delivered time and time again.

"The bombing was unimaginable, we ran from one place to the other", said Hala Hassan, 29, a woman from Syria's Deir al-Zor who escaped with her five children.

Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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