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Syria's war: Trucks carrying women, children leave ISIL enclave

Syria's war: Trucks carrying women, children leave ISIL enclave

More than 300 Islamic State militants are trying to negotiate an exit after refusing to surrender after US -backed forces surrounded them.

AFP correspondents at the SDF staging point outside Baghouz saw children, including young girls wearing veils, inside the trucks with men and veiled women.

"They've got a lot of civilians in there, they hold some Syrian Democratic Force prisoners and they are using them as human shields", Votel said of Islamic State.

"We are doing our best to avoid harming civilians as there is a large number of them stranded with the militants", he said.

He said a convoy of trucks had entered Baghouz on Tuesday to transfer jihadists and their relatives out to SDF-held territory.

However, the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat IS says it can not verify reports about militants surrendering.

SDF fighters, with troops of the US -led coalition against IS, waited at a position on Baghouz's outskirts to question the evacuees and record their names, a Reuters witness said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported ongoing negotiations between the SDF and jihadists, who are allegedly demanding safe passage out of the Baghouz pocket.

Backed by air strikes by a US-led coalition, the SDF had trapped IS fighters in less than half a square kilometre (0.2 square miles) of Baghouz.

The Islamic State group has been reduced from its self-proclaimed "caliphate" that once spread across much of Syria and Iraq at its height in 2014 to a speck of land on the countries' shared border.

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Afrin said some diehard jihadists were still refusing to surrender and "many civilians remain" in the final jihadist holdout.

Earlier Tuesday, another SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said his forces were preparing for a final push.

On Tuesday, February 19, the SDF said several ISIS fighters and dozens of civilians handed themselves over to the Kurdish-led force.

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Lorries have begun evacuating people from the last area in Syria still held by the Islamic State (IS) group.

There are also reports from the area that the Kurdish-led SDF forces have now retaken the village of Baghouz.

A convoy of trucks evacuating civilians from a shrinking area controlled by the ISIL fighters in Syria's northeastern province of Deir Az Zor has left the enclave as an operation to drive them out continues. "We have saved the people" from the IS group, he said.

About 300 fighters and less than 2,000 civilians have been trapped in the village.

The SDF has complained that Western countries are reluctant to take back such people, who are seen at home as a security threat but might be hard to legally prosecute.

An announcement of the military defeat of ISIS by the SDF would confirm the extremists' demise in Syria east of the Euphrates.