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US-backed Syrian force vows to take all Manbij from Islamic State

Fighters of the Manbij military council take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 1, 2016

An alliance of US-backed Syrian militias vowed on Thursday to drive Islamic State from the city of Manbij and nearby areas in northern Syria, urging civilians there to stay away from Islamic State positions that would be targeted in the campaign.

“We confirm that this campaign will continue until the liberation of the last inch of the land of Manbij and its rural areas”, said a joint statement in the name of the attacking Syria Democratic Forces and allied Manbij Military Council.

The statement was read out on the banks of the Euphrates River by Manbij Military Council commander Adnan Abu Amjad.

“We urge our people in the city of Manbij to stay away from all centres and positions where the Daesh terrorists are present because they will be military targets for our forces. We call on them to take measures to ensure their safety,” he said.

“We also call on our people in Manbij to offer support and help to our forces,” said Abu Amjad. He said the Manbij military council represented all the area’s ethnic groups which he listed as Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Circassians.

The statement urged civilians in Manbij to cooperate with the attacking forces and said control would be handed to a civilian council after the town was freed.

“Oh brave people of Manbij, our forces are coming to liberate our from the shackles of the Daesh terrorist torturers.”

Thousands of US-backed fighters opened a major new front in Syria‘s war, launching an offensive to drive Islamic State out of a swathe of northern Syria it uses as a logistics base.

The operation, which began on Tuesday after weeks of quiet preparations, aims to choke off the group’s access to Syrian land along the Turkish border that the militants have long used to move foreign fighters back and forth to Europe.

A Kurdish source, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters in Beirut, predicted the Syrian militias would reach Islamic State-held Manbij within days, after advancing to within 10 km of the town.

It was too early to say how the battle for Manbij would go, the source said, but added that Islamic State defences stationed on the west bank of the Euphrates River had collapsed at the start of the campaign.

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