Iraq to take back 20,000 who left for Isil’s caliphate in Syria

Iraq to take back 20,000 who left for Isil's caliphate in Syria

The battle for Baghuz, meanwhile, looks set to continue for days more as the SDF makes incremental advances between long pauses to allow women and children to leave the pocket and men to lay down their arms.

“We could take it in one night. But the strategy is to press Isil to let their civilians out, not to storm the place,” said Behzat Cudi, unit commander. “So we attack and give them a chance to surrender.”

SDF troops launched a fighting reconnaissance raid into the pocket on Sunday night and advanced to take and hold the same ground overnight on Tuesday.

Fighting is now taking place at close quarters among tents and fox holes often occupied by women and children as well as Isil fighters and suicide bombers. The commander said it is often impossible to use the coalition air support that has given the SDF the decisive advantage in previous battles.

One commander told the Telegraph last week that the remaining area could conceal 2,000 Isil fighters and more civilians, though with a reported 2,000 mostly fighters surrendering on Tuesday it was unclear just how many were left.

The SDF and coalition have throughout the battle for Baghouz grossly underestimated the number left in the pocket.

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