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Thousands of ISIS troops surrender amid attack on final stronghold in Syria

CNN logo CNN 3/13/2019 By Ben Wedeman, Hande Atay Alam and Ben Westcott, CNN
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More than 3,000 ISIS fighters have surrendered amid a pitched battle by US-backed forces to retake the last ISIS stronghold in Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Mustafa Bali claimed by Tuesday evening the number of ISIS members who had laid down arms had "risen to 3,000."

Bali added that three Yazidi women and four children had been rescued as well.

It comes amid a heavy fighting in the Syrian town of Baghouz, the last bit of territory in Syria and Iraq claimed by the Islamic State.

A CNN team in Syria witnessed intense shelling of the town throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, but so far the SDF have resisted providing details as to how they expect the remaining ISIS fighter to hold out.

Related video: Hear artillery fire as ISIS battles for last territory (CNN)

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In a statement on Twitter Tuesday, Bali said the "decisive moment is closer than ever before." He claimed the ISIS fighters in the city were "surrendering en masse."

Earlier in the day, the spokesman had claimed two weapons depots had been destroyed in the attacks, which killed 38 ISIS combatants.

At its height, ISIS controlled huge swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. The US-led coalition has been working for years to oust the group from cities and towns.

Before the recent attack began in February, SDF officials estimated that 1,500 civilians and 500 ISIS fighters remained but after the battle began it became clear that the actual number was much higher.

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