This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Hundreds of Islamic State (IS) militants and family members surrendered as U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces moved closer to crushing the militants in their final sliver of territory in the eastern part of the country.
“Around 1,300 terrorists and their families surrendered to our forces today amid our operations against the terrorist Daesh organization,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a tweet on March 14, using an alternate name for IS.
The SDF, a Kurdish-led rebel force backed by U.S.-led coalition air support, moved closer to its goal of wiping out the last vestiges of the militants’ so-called “caliphate” that once sprawled across Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Fighting centered around the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
An AFP reporter said most of the men surrendering appeared to be wounded.
“Those who stayed inside [the camp] are mostly suicide bombers blowing themselves up, which is impeding the advance,” said Jiaker Amed, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a key element of the SDF.
The SDF said some 3,000 IS members had surrendered since March 10.
The United States and Turkey back differing antigovernment rebel groups in Syria’s eight-year civil war, while Russia and Iran support President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The United States is in the process of pulling most of its troops out of Syria, a move that has caused concerns among allied Kurdish fighters.