The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) say they have seized full control of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, ridding the town of Islamic State (Isis) jihadists. After a 73-day battle SDF troops are now said to be clearing the city checking for booby traps and abandoned equipment left after hundreds of jihadists fled.
The SDF is a 30,000-strong alliance of Arab and Kurdish groups that has successfully driven IS (Daesh) militants from the northern city close to the Turkish border. In the final days of the operation, the SDF said around 2,000 civilians were being used as human shields.
Manbij was captured by IS two years ago, but today the SDF were seen sifting through an al-Hisbah (IS religious police) HQ where gruesome weapons of torture were found. An estimated 500 of the extremists and civilians loyal to the terror group are believed to have fled the town in cars and other vehicles towards the IS-controlled town of Jarablus in the north.
Sharfan Darwish of the SDF allied Manbij Military Council told Reuters: "The city is now fully under our control, but we are undertaking sweeping operations." The city is of great strategic importance as the road towards Syria's second city, Aleppo, and to the IS de-facto capital, Raqqa, pass through the city allowing the jihadists to move weapons and fighters.
"After the liberation of Manbij, IS members won't be able to freely travel to and from Europe anymore," said Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, according to the BBC.
The umbrella SDF coalition consists of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) with Arab, Christian and Turkmen militias. The liberation of Manbij is a precursor for an invasion of Raqqa, which could take place at some point in the next year.
In other images that emerged from Manbij, SDF troops were filmed rummaging through a former al-Hisbah headquarters. The HQ was said to have been where the feared religious police would torture citizens with poles and chains.
The al-Hisbah follow their own twisted version of Sharia Law with minor infractions, like smoking or if a woman is spotted without her face covered, resulting in physical punishment.