Staring imminent defeat in the face has been a turning point for many Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists in Iraq and Syria, driving hundreds of them to surrender in the liberated town of Hawija while others continue to strive towards martyrdom as their only acceptable end in the group’s “capital” Raqqa.
Referring to Raqqa, Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, stressed to Reuters that the alliance would not back any negotiated withdrawal of ISIS fighters who claim to have surrendered.
Some ISIS jihadists tried to pose as fleeing civilians, Kurdish news outlet Rudaw recently warned, adding that Peshmerga troops have been forced to shoot some of the terrorists after they opened fire first.
Nevertheless, the U.S.-led coalition and local forces are trying to figure out how to safely get civilians out of ISIS-held territory.
“The coalition would not be party to a negotiated settlement. [But] we’re jumping ahead of anything that’s being discussed right now … as [the Raqqa Civil Council] try to get civilians out,” the U.S. colonel told Reuters.
U.S.-led coalition troops and their allies have reportedly liberated nearly 90 percent of the Syrian city of Raqqa, considered the de-facto capital of the jihadist group’s ever-dwindling caliphate.
Last week, more than one thousand ISIS militants surrendered to Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga troops after fleeing the U.S.-backed fight to liberate the terrorist group’s so-called “last” remaining stronghold in northern Iraq (town of Hawija).
ISIS jihadists wholly ignored their pledge to become a martyr as they voluntarily turned themselves over to the U.S.-allied Peshmerga troops.
Meanwhile, in the Syrian city of Raqqa, once considered the terrorist group’s de-facto capital, many ISIS terrorists want to stay behind and fight.
Reuters learned from Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, that ISIS fighters “are expected to fight to the death, but some local militants have surrendered recently as U.S.-backed forces close in on their last strongholds.”
“Up to 400 militants are believed to remain in a small part of Raqqa surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias,” indicated the coalition spokesman. “The foreign fighters [in ISIS], we fully expect them to fight till the end – there’s a hardcore of [foreign] fighters.”
The U.S.-backed SDF, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), expects to conquer Raqqa within days, a few years after ISIS seized it in 2014.
One prominent quality among ISIS fighters appears to be that once an ISIS-controlled city is on the brink of defeat, the group’s leaders are among the first to flee after telling their followers to stay and fight.
“We have seen a rate of four to five ISIS fighters surrendering a week, including emirs – local leaders within Raqqa – over the past month,” noted Col. Dillon, referring to the attrition rate.
Amid the offensive to liberate Mosul, the top jihadi chief himself, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reportedly ordered his followers to “flee and hide” or “ blow themselves up when surrounded by Iraqi forces.”