Manbij Residents Celebrate End of IS Rule

Manbij Residents Celebrate End of IS RuleManbij Residents Celebrate End of IS Rule

Residents in the northern Syrian city of Manbij have been celebrating new freedoms after being liberated from the rule of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

They poured into the streets enjoying basic rights they had been denied for two years, including shaving off their beards and smoking. US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters fought 73 days to drive IS out of Manbij, close to the Turkish border. About 2,000 civilians being used as human shields were also freed, BBC reported.

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia. They were backed in their campaign against IS by US-led airstrikes on IS positions.

The roads through Manbij had become crucial to the group's ability to move fighters, weapons and supplies in and out of Syria. Routes to Syria's embattled second city, Aleppo, and to the IS capital, Raqqa, pass through the town.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict from the UK, around 500 cars left Manbij carrying IS members and civilians.

They were heading northeast towards Jarablus, a town under IS control on the Turkish border. The militias said their victory had cut off the IS militants' route to Europe.

"After the liberation of Manbij, IS members won't be able to freely travel to and from Europe anymore," said Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim. US officials have said that after Manbij, the coalition's intention is to move on Raqqa.

Estimated to have a population of between 250,000 and 500,000, Raqqa has become the de facto capital of the "caliphate" whose creation was proclaimed by IS two years ago after it took control of large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

In addition to the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters supported by the US, IS militants are also under pressure from Russian-backed Syrian government forces. Two days ago, Russian airstrikes cut off the city's water supply.