Angry and defiant, ISIS families surrender in Syria

Angry civilians evacuating from the last shred of territory held by Islamic State militants in Syria praised the extremist group on Wednesday and chanted "Islamic State will remain," underscoring the defiance of ISIS fighters and their supporters even as their defeat looms.

There were no signs of combat on Wednesday to allow for evacuations from the ISIS-held pocket in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz. Associated Press journalists positioned across from the ISIS-held pocket saw lines of pickup trucks, motorcycles and people walking on foot, in what appeared to be a group evacuating.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the group spearheading the fight against ISIS in Syria, has been applying a combination of military force to put pressure on the militants who refuse to surrender, followed by pauses to allow for the evacuation of civilians.

Thousands of people have streamed out of Baghouz in the last few days under a stepped-up assault by the US-led coalition and their ground partners. The latest wave of evacuations brings the final defeat of ISIS by the Kurdish-led SDF a step closer — a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to defeat the group's so-called "caliphate" that once covered a vast territory straddling both Syria and Iraq.

On Wednesday, a group of women seen at a reception area set up in the desert, where they were screened by SDF officials, were rowdy, aggressive and defiant, praising the Islamic State group and screaming angrily at journalists. One woman raised her shoe in their direction.

A 30-year-old Iraqi woman said her 1-month-old baby, who was sick, died overnight in the reception area from the cold.

"I didn't want to leave except to treat her," the woman who identified herself as Um Fatima said. She cursed the SDF and said: "The Islamic state will remain and expand, God willing," and walked away.

Many among those leaving on Wednesday appeared to be wives and children of ISIS militants.

Loubna, 30 from the Syrian town of al-Bab, said there were many bodies on the streets in the ISIS-held area, burned by a fire in an ammunition depot on the edge of the camp was ignited over the weekend by a coalition airstrike. The fire was still smoldering days laer.

Loubna said she opted to leave but her husband, a Syrian, decided to stay. He will fight till the end, she said, adding he is prepared to blow himself up. "God will send help," she said. Loubna said didn't think she would see her husband again, and will raise her five kids to become jihadists.

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