MANBIJ, Syria, Aug. 13 (UPI) — Residents of the Syrian town of Manbij celebrated after U.S.-backed rebels helped liberate the area from Islamic State militants.
According to the BBC, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters freed about 2,000 civilians who were used as human shields after fighting for 73 days to drive the IS out of the area.
CNN reported that the people of Manbij rejoiced, as the Pentagon confirmed the center of the city was liberated.
“Here they used to execute people and hung their heads here and leave it for three days. They would execute people for anything, using the excuse he did not believe,” a man told local outlet Kurdistan 24 of an area used as an IS execution site.
Residents celebrated in the streets by shaving their beards and smoking, now free of IS restrictions that prohibited such things in addition to forcing women to wear full-body coverings.
In addition to freeing residents from social restrictions, the liberation of Manbij created a strategic disadvantage for IS by blocking their route to Europe.
“After the liberation of Manbij, IS members won’t be able to freely travel to and from Europe anymore,” Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim said.
U.S. officials said the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition will now turn its focus to the city of Raqqa.