BAGHOUZ (Kurdistan 24) – A Serbian Islamic State fighter on Saturday revealed details about the extremist group as some 5,000 people surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Baghouz, in eastern Syria, in the last three days.
“I joined the fight in Syria to support Islam and spread it to all parts of the world,” a Serbian fighter told Kurdistan 24.
“When I came to Syria, there was no Islamic State at the time, so I joined the Nusra front,” he explained.
Nusra Front, an offshoot terrorist group of al-Qaeda, appeared in Syria after the start of the country’s civil war in 2012, taking over Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in the north and east of Syria in 2013. In 2014, the Islamic State appeared and took over control of Raqqa.
The Serbian fighter was among 5,000 people from Baghouz who surrendered to SDF in the last three days as the last pocket of territory held by the jihadist group continues to shrink.
The new arrivals to the SDF areas include fighters and their families, as well as hostages captured by the Islamic State several years ago. Among them was a group of Yezidi children who were taken from Sinjar (Shingal) in Iraq in 2014.
Those children were separated from their families at that time and taken to special camps by the Islamic State to turn them into what they called “the Cubs of the Caliphate,” sometimes used as suicide bombers.
The children have forgotten their native tongue of Kurdish after being separated from their families for over four years. They refused to talk to media, using the Arabic the Islamic State taught them.
Last week, the SDF announced the military end of the Islamic State as imminent since the extremist group can no longer expand its reach or launch counter-attacks.
Nevertheless, the fighting continues, with intermittent clashes and US-led coalition airstrikes taking place in Baghouz as the remaining fighters and their families resist in a tented area on the outskirts of Baghouz village.
Several SDF fighters believe the battle might end in less than a week but new information about the number of Islamic State fighters still in the area - about one thousand - could delay the fight yet again.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih)