Members of SDF forces in Manbij. Rudaw Photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Manbij military council of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has denied reports of large numbers of civilian casualties during the ongoing battle for the northern Syrian city.
The military council said in a statement that facts on the ground are being distorted by certain groups who “support terrorism”.
“From the beginning of the Manbij liberation campaign, there are suspected parties who try to distort the facts and ongoing events on the ground,” read the statement a copy of which was obtained by Rudaw. “They publish fabricated news on the ongoing battle to liberate the city and this is lies to confuse public.”
The Kurdish-majority SDF has been engaged in intense battle with militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) for the control of the northern Syrian city of Manbij since early June.
The forces are still within a mile of the city.
Reports published in the Arab media and by the Syrian observatory for human rights this week claimed that more than 50 civilians had been killed by the advancing forces, specifically in the village of Altukhar.
The military council rejected the reports, saying that the SDF forces are ensuring the safety of the city’s population particularly during their escape from ISIS.
The council’s statement says that they “do not deny civilian casualties in the fight against ISIS, and this is unfortunate, but the first mission is to reassure civilian life during these difficult times,”
The military council says that the village of Altukhar was empty of civilians and the SDF and their coalition partners had only targeted an assembly of ISIS militants.
As they continue to record victories against ISIS, said the statement, their forces “protect and ensure the life of those civilians who are escaping during the battle,”
The Manbij military council goes on to say that the reports fail to mention thousands of civilians held hostage by ISIS.
“We realize that ISIS still holds captive thousands of civilians as human shield,” reads the statement. “This is exactly what’s being deliberately hidden.”
The council goes so far as to accuse those who publish such reports of covering up terrorism.