US-backed militias face second ISIS counter attack

A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks in the silos and mills of Manbij after the SDF took control of it, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016. (Reuters)

Syrian militias backed by US-led air strikes have repelled a second ISIS counter attack in 24 hours near a city being targeted in a major offensive against the militant group, an official and a monitoring group said on Monday.

At least 13,000 civilians have fled the ISIS group bastion of Manbij in northern Syria since the launch of a US-backed offensive there, a monitor said Monday.

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance grouping Kurdish and Arab fighters launched an offensive last month to capture Manbij from ISIS, part of an operation aimed at dislodging the group from the border with Turkey.

ISIS, seeking to break a siege on Manbij, counter attacked on three fronts around the city on Saturday, followed by a further counter attack over Sunday night and in the early hours of Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an SDF official said. Both assaults had been repelled, they said.

“Dozens of air strikes repelled (ISIS forces),” Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

“The SDF has made no progress in Manbij for 10 days,” he said, noting that progress had been slow in part because ISIS fighters had heavily mined buildings in the city.

Manbij had served as a vital stop along an IS supply route from Turkey, from the border town of Jarabulus to its bastion province of Raqqa.

The SDF offensive on the town is backed by a US-led coalition that has been bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria for nearly two years.

The UN’s humanitarian office has not released its own estimates of how many people have fled Manbij, but said in late June that about 60,000 people were still in the town.

The US-backed campaign in northern Syria aims to drive Islamic State away from its last foothold at the border with Turkey. Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, are waging a separate campaign against the militants in the same area.

(With Reuters and AFP)

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51