Diehard jihadists have blocked roads out of the last scrap of their Islamic State group “caliphate” in Syria, preventing hundreds of civilians from fleeing.
“It’s been two days since anyone came out,” a fighter from from SDF, being backed by the United States said.
SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said IS had blocked roads out of its holdout, preventing those remaining from escaping to safety.
“Daesh has sealed off all the streets” but up to 2,000 civilians could still be inside, he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
The jihadists are confined to “a few hundred metres square in… Baghouz with a number of civilians they hold hostage and refuse to release”, he said on Twitter Saturday.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition, which has been backing the SDF with its air power and some troops, said IS was using these women and children as “human shields”.
“Civilians who have escaped are reporting ISIS is using them as human shields and killing innocent civilians in order to intimidate others from trying to leave,” Sean Ryan said.
The Kurdish-led SDF launched the offensive to expel IS from the eastern banks of the Euphrates in September.
Ahead of a victory declaration expected within days and a subsequent US military pullout, US President Donald Trump called on his European allies to take back hundreds of alleged jihadists captured in Syria.
The jihadists declared a “caliphate” across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, implementing their brutal interpretation of Islam on millions.
But several offensives have expelled them from all of it, except a tiny patch of less than half a kilometre square on the banks of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border.
Trump on Friday promised announcements linked to “the eradication of the caliphate” within 24 hours, but a top SDF commander then warned the battle would take a few more days.
The US president in December shocked allies when he announced he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria because IS had been “beaten”.
That plan is set to be accelerated after a victory announcement.
Since 2015, the SDF have been battling IS with backing from the international coalition, retaking one major town after another until reaching Baghouz.
They have detained hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for IS and repeatedly called on their countries to repatriate them, but Western nations have been reluctant.
Trump early Sunday called on his European allies to bring their nationals home.
“The Caliphate is ready to fall,” he said on Twitter.
“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” he said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Eight years into the conflict that has killed more than 360,000 people, President Bashar al-Assad’s government controls nearly two-thirds of the country.