Buses evacuate Islamic State fighters from key border region

Jerome Frank
August 31, 2017

But officials of the US -led coalition said they will continue to monitor the convoy and aren't ruling out more airstrikes.

Iraq's government and the USA -led military coalition on Wednesday denounced an agreement that allows Islamic State fighters safe passage across Syria.

He did not know if the evacuation convoy, which contains buses of fighters and their family members, as well as ambulances carrying wounded fighters, was now in Islamic State or Syrian government territory.

"To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge", US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition, told the Agence France-Presse.

Iraqi social media users expressed outrage at the evacuation deal, which came a week into a Lebanese army offensive against ISIL and a joint Syrian army-Hezbollah operation against the group on Syrian territory.

The ceasefire halted separate, dual assaults against ISIS waged by the Lebanese army on its side of the border and Hezbollah from the Syrian side.

The group, which has been classified as a terrorist by the USA since it was founded following Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, has grown in prominence following its victory in 2006 war with Israel. "If a soldier doesn't go into each room, clear it, and mark it as safe, then we can't say that we're done".

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A commander in the pro-Assad military alliance said Syria and Hizbollah had accepted ISIL's evacuation rather than a fight to the end, to avert a bloody war of attrition.

Nine Lebanese soldiers were taken as captives following battles in 2014 in north-east Lebanon.

He explained that by "taking the time up front to surround these locations, instead of simply shoving them from one to another" coalition forces are able to "carry out the annihilation campaign so we don't simply transplant this problem from one location to another".

"The agreement to let the Islamic State militants escape likely saved hundreds of civilians held by the fanatical fighters, even though it allowed some Islamic State militants to escape", USA Today cited a senior U.S. defense official last August. In Syria, under separate attacks from a US -led coalition and from the Russian-backed Syrian army, it is falling back on its strongholds along the Euphrates valley east of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the caliphate it declared in 2014.

Army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun told reporters later Wednesday that as the army offensive against IS was ongoing, the Lebanese mediator called him to say that the extremists accepted a cease-fire in return for information about the fate of the soldiers.

State news agency SANA said 10 people were killed and 28 wounded when the vehicles they were traveling in drove over mines.

"The coalition has not struck the convoy", officials said.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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