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Wounded and alone, children emerge from last Islamic State enclave


DEIR AL-ZOR PROVINCE (SYRIA): Hareth Najem fled Islamic State's ultimate enclave in jap Syria wounded and alone. The Iraqi orphan's circle of relatives had died two years earlier in air strikes around the border in al-Qaim region.

"I had two brothers and a sister. They all died, and then I was by myself," Hareth informed Reuters, tears filling his eyes. "My little sister, I loved her a lot. I used to take her with me to the market."

Lying in a farm animals truck beside any other injured boy at a barren region transit level for U.S.-backed forces, he huddled underneath a blanket. His face was coated in dust and the aspect of his head wrapped with bandages covering wounds incurred days earlier.

Hareth was 11 years old when Islamic State (IS) carved out its "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, killing thousands of civilians and attracting an array of enemies that have fought from the air and at the ground to uproot the jihadists.

Now 16, he was a few of the youngsters swept up this week in the civilian evacuation of Baghouz, the ultimate shred of land underneath the jihadists' control the place they're on the brink of defeat at the hands of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Some of the kids are foreigners whose parents introduced them to be raised underneath IS rule, or kid fighters conscripted into what the group dubbed "cubs of the caliphate". Others, including members of the Yazidi minority, have been enslaved by way of the jihadists.

Many have observed their parents die in the preventing or be detained by way of rival forces. As IS faces territorial defeat, their destiny stays unsure. The SDF investigates all males and teen boys coming back from Baghouz to decide conceivable IS links.

'These youngsters have nobody'

Around 20 youngsters crossed the frontline on their own this week, including Iraqis, Syrians, Turks and Indonesians, stated SDF commander Adnan Afrin. The fathers of some have been identified as IS fighters and arrested in an instant.

"These kids have nobody. They need somebody to take care of them, to provide mental health support," stated Afrin, including that some had long past hungry for a very long time. The SDF plans handy over the kids to assist groups, he stated.

Hareth stated his circle of relatives were operating a marketplace stall when IS overran their the city and so they had no links to the group.

After his circle of relatives was killed in an aerial bombardment, he crossed into Syria with other Iraqis who feared Shi'ite Muslim militias advancing in opposition to IS would take revenge on Sunnis - a terror that other Iraqis have cited as their reason for entering IS-held Syria.

Hareth stated he attempted to steer clear of the jihadists and denies attending their colleges or receiving army coaching. Their morality police would occasionally arrest and whip him.


"They gave speeches at the mosques, jihad and whatnot," he stated. "I was scared of them. My whole family died because of them."


When he reached Baghouz, he worked in a field in go back for a room to sleep in. He attempted saving enough cash to head home, but stated the militants stopped him.


Hareth was wounded ultimate week when a shell fell near the place he was status along the Euphrates River, injuring his ear, hand and abdomen. He needs to get hospital treatment and go back to kin still in Iraq.


"I want to go look for them ... When I get better and my body recovers, when I can walk," he stated. "I want to go back, to become a young man again, to build a future again."


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