The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance, has recaptured the city of Manbij, located in northern Syria, from Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists.
Al Jazeera reports:
Celebrations have erupted in the Syrian city of Manbij, with civilians pouring onto the streets and rebel fighters claiming they have “liberated” all of the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Scenes of jubilation could be seen in many neighborhoods of the city over the weekend, with men clipping their beards, women lifting their veils and people smoking in public.
Referring to Manbij residents, Truthdig explains, “Men shaved their beards (which had been imposed on them by the fundamentalists) and women threw off their burqas (full-face veils) and burned them.”
Some ISIS sleeper cells are reportedly still operating in the strategically important city of Manbij, located on an ISIS supply route between the Turkish border and the terrorist group’s de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa. Nevertheless, Nasser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF, pointed out that search operations to find any remaining ISIS jihadists were ongoing, reports the Associated Press (AP).
“We are all happy. We cleared the city from Daesh [ISIS] and now people are returning to their homes,” Abu Musab, a Manbij resident, told Al Jazeera, adding, “We will show the world that the tide is changing and we will take back all of our country from Daesh.”
The city fell on Friday, reports Reuters.
— Jack Moore (@JFXM) August 14, 2016
— Mikey Kay (@MikeyKayNYC) August 13, 2016
Today it was time to celebrate. People of Manbij thank YPJ/SDF fighters and celebrate that Manbij is finally free! pic.twitter.com/vBqMfQ5kv9
— Rojava (@AzadiRojava) August 13, 2016
Kurds in Jindires town of Afrin celebrate the liberation of Manbij pic.twitter.com/Iho4onUokI
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) August 12, 2016
— Civil Defence Units (@DefenceUnits) August 14, 2016
— Struggle Of Kurds (@StruggleOfKurds) August 12, 2016
— Botin Kurdistani (@kurdistannews24) August 12, 2016
On Saturday, ISIS released hundreds of the estimated 2,000 civilians, including women and children, whom they reportedly used as human shields while retreating.
By Sunday, the largely Kurdish-Arab alliance, which also includes Assyrian Christians, Shiite Turkmen, and other minorities, announced that they were in control of the Manbij, which had been in the hands of ISIS since 2014.
According to U.S. military officials, the coalition launched nearly 680 airstrikes, demolishing more than 680 ISIS fighting positions and 150 vehicles and heavy weapons belonging to the terrorists.
More than 1,700 lives were lost, including 400-plus civilians, in the fighting for Manbij, reports the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of fighters to monitor the conflict.
Thousands of displaced residents streamed back into the northern Syrian town of Manbij on Saturday after U.S.-backed fighters ousted the last Islamic State militants from their former stronghold, residents and U.S. allies said
Hundreds of cars and vehicles carrying families and their belongings flocked into the city from makeshift camps and villages in the countryside, where many of the city’s residents took shelter during the two-month campaign, according to an SDF official and relatives who were in contact with residents.
The U.S.-backed YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) that controls large swathes of northern Syria.
U.S. NATO ally Turkey has long considered the YPG to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Although the United States and other NATO members have designated the PKK a terrorist organization, the Obama administration has argued that it does not consider the YPG a terrorist group.