A town in northern Syria has been claimed back as thousands of displaced residents returned after US-backed fighters ousted the last Islamic State militants from their former stronghold.
The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Friday they had seized full control of Manbij on Saturday near the Turkish border after the departure of the last of the militants, who had been using civilians as human shields, Reuters reports.
The SDF recruited Arabs to join forces with the YPG Kurdish militia, and has backing from the US, aiming to remove Islamic State from areas it controls along the Turkish border.
A SDF official said hundreds of cars and vehicles carrying families and their belongings came back to the city from living in makeshift camps and villages in the countryside.
Islamic State had control of Manbij since early 2014. The loss to IS is reported to be a “big blow” due to the city's strategic importance. It is used to transit foreign jihadists and provisions from the Turkish border.
Families had also spoken out about how harsh life was under Islamic State in the city, the news agency said.
Footage showed men shaving their beards and veiled women setting fire to niqabs they were forced to wear in public by ISIS.
On Friday a deal was reached where the militants left with about 2000 civilians, believed to have been their relatives, to go to their stronghold of Jarablus near the border with Turkey, according to a source who spoke with Reuters.