Nearly 300 Syrians suspected of belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group have been released by Kurdish forces who suggested the detainees had “no blood on their hands”.
Kurdish authorities said 283 Syrians had been set free by the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration of northern Syria.
Tribal chiefs and other local officials had lobbied for their release, the announcement late on Saturday said.
Those released included men who “have no Syrian blood on their hands”, the statement read, suggesting that they did not take part in any fighting.
“They had lost their way… violated the traditions of the Syrian society and the law, and some of them had been deceived… but they remain our Syrian children,” it said.
Releasing them is a gesture of “cooperation, fraternity and clemency,” said the statement posted on the website of the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The prisoners were released in several areas of northern Syria held by Kurds, including the city of Raqqa, which was the de facto Syrian capital of the IS “caliphate”, the statement added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said it was not the first release of IS-linked prisoners by Kurdish authorities, but the number was particularly large this time.
The SDF are holding hundreds of alleged foreign jihadists, as well as women and children related to suspected IS members.
Syria’s Kurds have long urged their home countries to take the detainees back, but nations have been reluctant.
Kurds have played a key role in battling IS in Syria. The SDF have now cornered the jihadists in their last stretch of territory near the border with Iraq in a final bid to flush them out.
The capture of Baghouz and nearby areas would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq.
The military operation was halted on earlier this month as the SDF said a large number of civilians and hostages were holed up in the territory, which sits atop caves and tunnels where they had been hiding.
The group’s so-called “caliphate” that at the height of the militant group’s power in 2014 ruled over an area the size of the United Kingdom.
The final push came as US President Donald Trump again jumped the gun on declaring victory over the jihadists.
“We just took over – you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent – the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent. We just took over,” Trump said Thursday in remarks to US service members in Alaska on his way back from Vietnam.