“ISIS seizes Syria villages from US-backed fighters: activists,” Agence France Presse, June 20, 2016:
BEIRUT: ISIS launched a surprise assault Monday near its besieged stronghold in northern Syria, killing residents of two villages it recaptured from U.S.-backed fighters, activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had dispatched a small group of extremists – including one driving an explosives-laden car – into villages southeast of their bastion of Manbij.
The villages had been seized in recent weeks by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in their push for Manbij.
“IS (ISIS) is trying to defend Manbij by sending fighters from outside the town to attack the SDF in these villages,” said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Observatory.
“Daesh executed residents,” he added, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The head of the Observatory, which relies on a vast network of sources on the ground for its information, did not have an immediate toll from the villages.
The U.S.-led coalition backing the SDF carried out a barrage of airstrikes Monday to defend the villages, said Abdel-Rahman.
At least four SDF fighters were killed in the clashes and many more were wounded.
The SDF – a Kurdish-Arab alliance with air support from the U.S.-led coalition – encircled Manbij nearly 10 days ago.
But since then, they have been slowed by almost daily suicide bombings as ISIS puts up a fight for the town.
Held by the extremists since 2014, Manbij was a key stop along ISIS’s supply route from the Turkish border southeast through the town of Tabqa and on to its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa….