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Idlib: 250 ISIS militants surrender to rebels

Local | 2018-02-13 11:58:00
Idlib: 250 ISIS militants surrender to rebels
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Daesh (ISIS) has been ousted from northwestern Syria's Idlib province after a final group of the militants surrendered to hardline rebels Tuesday, a spokesman and monitor said.

Some 400 people including Daesh fighters, relatives and wounded, gave themselves up to an alliance of rebel groups Tuesday, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr faction said, 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.

Homsi said the fighters would be interrogated to find out whether they had planted sleeper cells in the area, and would be put on trial in "special courts". 

Daesh once held swathes of northern and central Syria including parts of Hama, Homs and Aleppo provinces and much of Raqqa, including its provincial capital.

After a string of major defeats last year, hundreds of Daesh fighters fled to a pocket of territory at the intersection of Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo provinces.

They have now been fully ousted from all three, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

The regime troops pushed them out of Hama and into Idlib province last week, Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman said.

"Around 250 fighters with their families, or 400 people in total, were besieged in Al-Khowein," Abdel Rahman said. 

"Now, Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo are completely clear of IS [Daesh]."

Daesh fighters are still present in smaller numbers in the provinces of Homs, Deir al-Zor, Hassakeh, as well as around Damascus and in Syria's south. 

Daesh operated an Islamist "governorate" in Idlib over four years ago, but it was kicked out of the province in early 2014 by Islamist fighters and allied rebels, only returning after a blistering series of defeats late last year.

The Islamist and rebel fighters went on to oust the regime from the rest of the province in 2015 but are now facing a ferocious government assault aimed at retaking key territory there. 

Announcing the Daesh surrender on Tuesday, rebels accused the regime of having granted the militants safe passage into Al-Khowein.

Dahr al-Gozat, or the Thwart The Conquerors, an alliance of key rebel groups operating in Idlib, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, said the ISIS militants who infiltrated to al-Khowein town had been taken captive.

Idlib is the largest chunk of Syrian territory held by insurgent factions opposed to Bashar al-Assad's regime. Islamist factions including al Qaeda's former affiliate in the Syrian war dominate the province.
On Monday, Daesh fighters took the village al-Zarzour, such an advance in the southern countryside of Idlib followed a coordination between the radical group and regime forces who opened a corridor for the jihadists to reach the region.

The Observatory said on Friday that regime forces had allowed Daesh fighters to leave a besieged pocket of territory at the intersection of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and then go to southern Idlib. (WIth AFP)

Zaman Al Wasl
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