A group of Islamic State fighters has evacuated the Syrian city of Raqqa under a withdrawal agreement with the U.S.-backed Syrian militias surrounding them.
A militia spokesman said Sunday the fighters had taken civilians with them to use as human shields.
Meanwhile, fighting has continued between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants. Reuters news agency quoted an SDF spokesman as saying “the operation has finished and the battle continues” against the militants who remained in the city.
Earlier, a spokesman said any Islamic State fighters left behind would be forced to “surrender or die.”
On Friday, scores of civilians fled Raqqa ahead of the anticipated final push into the city by the U.S.-backed fighters aiming to retake it from the IS militants.
Hundreds of civilians have left Raqqa in recent days from the remaining neighborhoods held by Islamic State fighters, taking advantage of the slowdown in the fighting by coalition troops meant to help civilians safely evacuate.
Residents said local IS fighters had been surrendering recently, but the militants still held on to a few areas of the city, including the stadium and national hospital.
Many of the residents who escaped the city were malnourished after being trapped by the fighting for several months.
“Those who manage to escape speak of deteriorating conditions inside the city,” U.N. refugee spokesman Andrej Mahecic said. “Food, water, medicine and electricity are scarce.”
U.S.-backed fighters of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces have been on the offensive in Raqqa since June 5, capturing more than 80 percent of the city.
Raqqa, on the banks of the Euphrates River, is the de facto capital of the Islamic State fighters.
Activists say more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Raqqa since the battle to retake the city began in June. Nearly 270,000 people have fled since April.