Kurdish-led forces approach Manbij, liberate several villages
KOBANI, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan24) – On Friday, the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with the Manbij Military Council liberated six villages and a strategic hill near the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a Kurdistan24 correspondent embedded with the SDF reported.
Manbij is a key Islamic State (IS) stronghold northwest of Aleppo.
“Our forces crossed the Euphrates from two strategic points: Qaraqozaq bridge and Tishrin Dam, and then advanced towards Seraj Hill that overlooks Manbij countryside,” an SDF commander told Kurdistan24.
The Manbij operation is in its fourth day and there are no verified reports on the number of casualties. However, both Syria-based Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) and Netherlands-based Kurdish Firat News Agency (ANF) reported on Friday that 13 IS insurgents were killed.
“Thirteen gang members, including 1 gang leader (emir) were killed on the [Seraj] hill 13 km west of the Euphrates River. One mortar battery was confiscated,” ANF reported referring to IS insurgents.
Additionally, the SDF and the Manbij Council have not stated a specific date for liberating Manbij but confirmed that the operation aimed at liberating the whole city, not only the countryside.
"We confirm that this campaign will continue until the liberation of the last inch of the land of Manbij and its rural areas," said Adnan Abu Amjad, a commander of the Manbij Military Council, affiliated with the SDF. He read the statement on the banks of the Euphrates.
The SDF has already launched two operations last week: the first one in the northern countryside of Raqqa on May 24, and the other one on May 30 towards the IS-held area of Tabqa, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) to the west of Raqqa.
[A fighter of Syrian Democratic Forces speaks with women in Haj Hussein village after SDF fighters took control of village from Islamic State fighters in southern rural area of Manbij, Aleppo, Syria, June 2, 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)]
SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES (SDF)
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which includes Kurds, Arabs and others ethnicities, was formed in December 2015 at a conference in northeastern Syria. The Council aims at promoting a secular, democratic vision for Syria.
The SDC adopted an already established military force called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are fighting against IS. The SDF, founded in October 2015, unites Arab, Turkmen, and Armenian militias, as well as Free Syrian Army (FSA) units.
The SDF liberated several IS strongholds in north and northeast Syria. The first was the liberation of Al-Hawl south of Hasakah in November 2015, and then in the south of Kobani 50 villages were liberated. IS was also pushed out of Tishrin Dam on Dec. 26, 2015.
On Feb. 10, SDF announced the control of Mengh and its military airport, north of Aleppo, Syria.
On Feb. 16, SDF launched a three-day military offensive titled “Wrath of Khabour” which ended in al-Shaddadi's liberation on Feb. 19.
Although mainstream media presents SDF as an inclusive force, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the primary element of the coalition and outnumbers all other groups.
Reporting by Hisham Arafat
Editing by Ava Homa