Around 3,000 Islamic State members have surrendered from the group’s last holdout in Syria, Kurdish-led forces said, as air raids and shelling resumed after a brief lull.
A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling IS group’s “caliphate” declared in 2014 across large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been trying to crush holdout IS fighters for weeks but the mass outpouring of men, women and children from the riverside hamlet has bogged down its advance.
Backed by the US-led coalition, the SDF renewed its assault Sunday after warning remaining IS fighters their time was up.
Air strikes and shelling then pommelled Baghouz three nights in a row, killing scores of fighters and prompting hundreds of jihadists and their relatives to surrender.
Thousands handed themselves over Tuesday, after a deluge of fire hit the IS encampment the previous night.
“Number of Daesh (IS) members surrendered to us since yesterday evening has risen to 3,000,” Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustefa Bali tweeted in English on Tuesday evening.
He said US-backed forces clashed with jihadists on several fronts, killing nearly 40 IS fighters.
Since December, around 60,000 people have left the last IS redoubt, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around a tenth of them suspected jihadist fighters.
The United Nations said the numbers from Baghouz arriving in one Kurdish-run camp further north for the displaced were smaller than in previous weeks.
It said they were reaching the camp in a worse state than before.
The UN’s food agency said it is concerned about their well-being.
At the height of its brutal rule, IS controlled a stretch of land in Syria and Iraq the size of the United Kingdom.
The total capture of the Baghouz camp by the SDF would mark the end of the cross-border “caliphate” it proclaimed more than four years ago.
But beyond Baghouz, IS retains a presence in eastern Syria’s vast Badia desert and sleeper cells in the northeast.
The jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in SDF-held territory in recent months, and the US military has warned of the need to maintain a “vigilant offensive”.
Islamic State militants issued a defiant message calling on supporters around the world to carry out attacks in their defence.