Daesh has been ousted from Syria’s northern province of Idlib after some 250 militants surrendered to opposition forces after weeks of intense clashes, according to Syrian news agency Zaman Al-Wasl.
Some 400 people including the relatives of Daesh fighters and wounded militants gave themselves up to an alliance of opposition groups yesterday according to a spokesman for the Jaish Al-Nasr faction, which took part in the operation.
“We hit them with artillery in the town of Al-Khowein until they agreed to surrender,” Abu Al-Majd Al-Homsi said.
The news was confirmed by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
“Around 250 fighters with their families, or 400 people in total, were besieged in Al-Khowein,” Observatory head Rami Abdelrahman said. “Now, Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo are completely clear of IS [Daesh].”
Photos distributed on opposition group Telegram channels show dozens of men being detained and transported from the outskirts of the province to various detention centres by Free Syrian Army brigades and fighters belonging to the Hayaat Tahrir Al-Shaam alliance.
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The militants will be interrogated to find out whether they had planted sleeper cells in the area, and then tried in “special courts”, according to Al-Homsi. Syrian opposition groups in Idlib have also set up a rehabilitation centre for former Daesh members to teach them Islam devoid of the militants’ propaganda.
Daesh has lost swathes of its former territory in the past year and has been reduced to small pockets around its former strongholds.
Last week, Syrian regime forces pushed the remaining Daesh militants out of the Hama province into Idlib, with many opposition groups accusing the government of having granted the militants safe passage into Al-Khowein. On Friday, the SOHR confirmed that the regime had opened a corridor for the militants to leave the intersection of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and then go to southern Idlib from which they had launched attacks on opposition groups.
Despite many parties to the conflict announcing Daesh’s defeat last year following the battle for the eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday that the end of major combat operations against the Daesh did not mean that the United States and its allies have permanently defeated the organisation.
Turkey, which is currently battling US-backed Kurdish forces in the north of Syria, has accused the US of leaving pockets of Daesh militants in Syria intact to justify continued cooperation with Kurdish militias in the country.