Fighters with the Islamic State (IS) extremist group have released hundreds of civilians used as human shields while fleeing a stronghold in northern Syria, but the fate of others remains unknown.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, reported on August 13 that several hundred of the civilians taken by IS fighters escaping from the city of Manbij, near the Turkish border, were no longer being held by IS.
The retreat from the city, which IS captured in 2014, marked the group's worst defeat yet at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish alliance supported by U.S. air strikes.
The SDF had reported that fleeing jihadists took around 2,000 civilians, including women and children, on August 12 to ward off air strikes as they headed for the IS-held frontier town of Jarabulus.
The IS, which has suffered a string of losses in Syria and Iraq, has often staged mass abductions when it comes under pressure to relinquish territory it holds.
The SDF's offensive, which began at the end of May, aims to remove IS from areas the group controls along the Turkish border.