A first group of militants and their families has been evacuated from their last bastion in Syria’s western city of Homs under a Russian-backed deal struck with the Syrian army earlier this week.
Two buses left Homs’ al-Waer district on Saturday morning, carrying the militants and their families to the city of Jarablus, which is held by Turkish-backed militants.
Homs’ governor Talal al-Barazi said the Saturday evacuation included some 1,500 people, among them at least 400 militants.
Barazi said that Russian and Syrian forces were overseeing the process and that the full evacuation from al-Waer would take about six weeks.
“The preparations and the reality on the ground indicate that things will go well,” he added.
Under a reconciliation agreement signed between the Syrian army and the militants on Monday, between 10,000 and 15,000 people would leave al-Waer over the coming weeks, according to the so-called Homs Media Center.
The departure would pave the way for Damascus to retake state institutions in the area.
Once completed, the al-Waer evacuation would be the biggest of its kind in Syria since 2011 when foreign-sponsored militancy erupted in the Arab country.
A similar deal saw the evacuation of militants and their families from Aleppo late last year.
Al-Waer, home to about 75,000 people, had been under a government siege since 2013.
Over the past few months, the Takfiri elements operating in Syria have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian military has managed to liberate several regions.