SDF fighters close in on last Daesh-held village in Syria

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attend the funeral of a comrade from the Kurdish women's protection units (YPJ), who was killed while fighting against the Daesh, in northeastern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on February 9, 2019.(AFP / Delil Souleiman)
Updated 11 February 2019
0

SDF fighters close in on last Daesh-held village in Syria

  • The US-backed Syrian forces captured 41 positions held by Daesh group militants in overnight clashes
  • US-led coalition warplanes are giving cover to advancing SDF fighters

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian forces captured 41 positions held by Daesh group militants and destroyed their fortifications in the last tiny pocket they hold in eastern Syria amid fierce fighting, a spokesman said Sunday.
Mustafa Bali said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) made the advances overnight and on Sunday, hours after they launched a final push to clear the area from Daesh militants Saturday night.
The final battle to clear the village of Baghouz is now playing out after 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the area in the eastern province of Deir-el-Zour over the past few weeks.
Bali said heavy fighting was going on inside Baghouz on Sunday, adding that a Daesh counterattack was foiled early in the day. He did not say how long the battle was expected to last. US-led coalition warplanes are giving cover to advancing SDF fighters.
US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that the Daesh group will lose by next week all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.
That would mark the end of a four-year global war to end the extremist group’s territorial hold over large parts of Syria and Iraq where the group established its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2014.
US officials have said in recent weeks that Daesh has lost 99.5 percent of its territory and is holding onto fewer than 5 square kilometers in Syria, or less than 2 square miles, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated. But activists and residents say Daesh still has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq, and is laying the groundwork for an insurgency . The US military has warned the group could stage a comeback if the military and counter-terrorism pressure on it is eased.


US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago
0

US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

  • The handover was the first of several under an agreement brokered to handover a total of 502 fighters
  • News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria

BAGHDAD: US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over more than 150 Iraqi and other foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq on Thursday.
The handover was the first of several, two Iraqi military sources told Reuters, under an agreement brokered to handover a total of 502 fighters.
“The majority of the fighters are Iraqi,” said a military colonel whose unit is stationed at the Syrian border. “But we have a few foreigners.”
The mayor of Iraqi border town Al-Qaim, Ahmed Al-Mahallawi, said some fighters’ families were also transferred.
“Early this morning, 10 trucks loaded with Daesh fighters and their families were handed over by SDF forces to the Iraqi army,” he said.
“The majority of them are Iraqis and the convoy was under maximum security protection headed to the Jazeera and Badiya military headquarters.” Both bases are located in Anbar province.
The SDF and the US-backed coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria. The last civilians are expected to be evacuated on Thursday, to clear the way for the assault, the SDF said.
Around 800 of foreign extremist fighters who joined Daesh, including many Iraqis, are being held in Syria by the SDF, the group said. More than 2,000 family members are also in camps, with dozens more arriving each day.
Their fate has become more pressing in recent days as US-backed fighters planned their assault to capture the last remnants of the group’s self-styled caliphate.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iraq was carefully monitoring the situation at its Syrian border amid concerns that the remaining Daesh fighters could stream across the border.
The militant group still poses a threat in Iraq and some western officials believe that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, may still be hiding there.