U.S.-Backed Force in Syria Poised to Enter Daesh-Held Manbij

A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands near a woman looking out a doorway in a village, on the outskirts of Manbij city, after they took control of it from Daesh forces, Aleppo province, Syria June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

BEIRUT, June 8 – A U.S.-backed alliance of fighters in Syria is ready to enter the Daesh-held city of Manbij at will but is being cautious due to the presence of civilians there, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, backed by U.S.-led air strikes, has advanced to the outskirts of Manbij one week into a campaign aimed at dislodging Daesh from its last foothold on the Turkish border.

“Any moment that we want to enter it, we can, but because of the presence of civilians … we are being cautious about entering the city,” Sharfan Darwish of the Manbij Military Council told Reuters.

“I can say that the matter of liberating Manbij is settled,” he said. “When the time comes we will enter it, of course.”

A U.S. military spokesman told reporters in Washington by webcast that the SDF had suffered about a dozen killed and more than 100 wounded.

“We assess that Daesh will fight hard to retain Manbij,” said Army Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military campaign against Daesh, using an Arabic acronym for the militant group.

Garver said the coalition had carried out more than 80 air strikes in Manbij since the start of the operation last week.

The offensive includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, which controls wide areas of northeastern Syria, and its Arab allies. Dislodging IS from the last stretch of the Syrian-Turkish frontier where it has a foothold has been a top priority of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.

“There is news about many Daesh members escaping and evacuating some areas of Manbij and booby-trapping them,” Darwish said. “Our forces are now on the outskirts of the city. The campaign continues.”

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