ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A convoy of about 300 Islamic State (IS) fighters stranded in a desert in Syria has reached the militant-controlled district of Deir al-Zor in the east of the country, according to sources monitoring the group.
The extremist group agreed to evacuate territory, for the first time, from a district on the Syria-Lebanon border on Aug. 28.
The Syrian army and Hezbollah, a Shia Lebanese group, had prepared to transport the 17-bus IS convoy containing about 300 fighters and their families to an unspecified area in eastern Syria believed to be near Deir al-Zor.
In the aftermath of the agreement, the US-led coalition began conducting air strikes to block the convoy of fighters from reaching their destination.
The coalition said it was against the evacuation deal and would not let the convoy pass as officials in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region voiced their concern of IS fighters possibly crossing the Syrian border into Iraq.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesperson for the US-led coalition, criticized the deal between Syria, Hezbollah, and IS.
“The [Syrian] regime was complicit in allowing [the militant convoy] to link up with other IS fighters,” he said.
Syrian government forces recently broke the extremist group’s three-year siege on Deir al-Zor as troops advanced on the western side of the city.
Meanwhile, a Kurdish-led offensive, backed by the US-led coalition, is underway in the northern part of the province.
In August, the coalition dropped a record 5,075 bombs over Syria and Iraq during air-support for ground forces advancing in the IS-held territories.
The total was the highest number of air strikes during the three-year campaign against the militant group.
As IS continues to lose ground in Syria and Iraq, the extremists recently released a video encouraging fighters to join a campaign in the Philippines near the city of Marawi.
Philippine government forces have been trying to remove IS-linked militants from the city since May.
Editing by G.H. Renaud