US-backed fighters have seized a key Islamic State group stronghold in northern Syria after two months of heavy fighting and freed hundreds of civilians the extremists had used as human shields, Syrian Kurdish officials and an opposition activist group said on Saturday.
Nasser Haj Mansour, of the predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) told The Associated Press that the town of Manbij "is under full control," adding that operations are ongoing to search for any IS militants who might have stayed behind.
Footage broadcast by Kurdistan 24 shows scores of residents celebrating in the streets on Saturday, hours after SDF fighters captured the town.
Some men were seen clipping their beards with scissors while women were able to uncover their faces and some even burned niqabs.
ISIS imposes a harsh and extreme version of Islam on the territory under its control, including a mandatory dress code.
Under the extremists' reign, women had to wear long black cloaks that covered all but their eyes, while all adult men were forced to grow beards.
Smoking was banned under ISIS but on Saturday some men were seen smoking cigarettes.
The capture of Manbij is the biggest defeat for the extremist group in Syria since July 2015, when they lost the town of Tal Abyad on the border with Turkey.
The SDF launched its offensive in late May to capture Manbij under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes.
The town lies on a key supply route between the Turkish border and the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS group's self-styled caliphate.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that with the capture of Manbij, hundreds of civilians that IS used as human shields are now free.
The fighting and the airstrikes have killed some 450 people, according to the Observatory.