US-backed forces in eastern Syria yesterday screened and treated truckloads of suspected jihadists and relatives who left a village where the Islamic State group's "caliphate" is making its last stand.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) struggled to cope with the flow of people exiting the very last shred of a once-sprawling proto-state that claimed dominion over millions of people.
Several thousand of them are believed to remain in a last redoubt which has been shrunk to about half a square kilometre on the edge of Baghouz, a hamlet by the Euphrates river.
Hundreds of them, mostly women and children, arrived yesterday from Baghouz to a desert screening centre in a convoy of 11 huge double-trailer trucks.
The women formed a queue to be searched before heading to a distribution point where baby formula, diapers and bread were being handed out.
Overwhelmed fighters from the Kurdish-led SDF were still treating some of the more than 2,000 people who were trucked in the previous day.
An AFP reporter saw an 11-year-old girl who had lost her leg, a small child with a broken hand and his pregnant mother as well as others who had suffered wounds from landmine explosions and bombardment.
Kurdish fighters there said 30 people, mostly women, had already been sent on to other facilities for treatment, and that a total of 300 had received emergency care.
Their accounts of the makeshift camp in Baghouz where the SDF says around 5,000 people remain describe a death trap of disease and starvation.
Many of the women told AFP they were not able to leave earlier for lack of funds to pay the smugglers who spirit groups out of the besieged area.
"Inside, there is nothing but hunger," said one of them.
Next to her, two famished, dust-caked children were spooning out jam from a pot with their grimy fingers.
Nearby in the chaotic SDF outpost, a woman from Kazakhstan was walking around asking people if they knew whether meals would be handed out soon.
The number of people trapped in the last IS pocket near the Iraqi border has exceeded all estimates from a month ago, when SDF forces looked poised to complete their takeover.
The SDF, which has spearheaded the fight against IS in Syria since 2015, has complained that the burden was too heavy and urged the world to scale up its humanitarian effort.
Many of the civilians and fighters emerging from the ruins of the IS "caliphate" are foreigners whose countries of origin are reluctant to repatriate.