US-backed fighters say operation at last Daesh enclave not over

The Syrian Democratic Forces have been battling with Daesh fighters in the last weeks. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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US-backed fighters say operation at last Daesh enclave not over

  • The SDF has denied the claims made by Syrian Kurdish news outlet Hawar

DEIR AL-ZOR, Syria: US-backed Syrian fighters said they were still searching territory captured from Daesh at its final enclave in eastern Syria on Thursday and denied a report the jihadists had been finally defeated.
The final capture of the Baghouz enclave at the Iraqi border will mark the end of Daesh territorial rule that once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq after years of military campaigns by a range of international and local forces.
After weeks of fighting, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took a big step toward capturing the besieged area on Tuesday when they seized an encampment where the militants had been mounting a last defense of the area.
“Combing continues in the Baghouz camp,” an SDF media official said, citing commanders of the operation on Thursday, after the Syrian Kurdish news outlet Hawar reported that the entire enclave had been captured and IS defeated.
“There is no truth (to the report of) the complete liberation of the village,” the official said.
The report on Hawar News, which is close to the Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria, was later removed from its website.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that a “tiny spot” of remaining Daesh territory would be “gone by tonight.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country has participated in the campaign, said on Wednesday he expected the announcement of the “final territorial defeat” to be made in the “next few days.”
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends its grip over territory, it remains a threat, with fighters operating in remote territory elsewhere and capable of mounting insurgent attacks.
The US military has warned that Daesh may still count tens of thousands of fighters, dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, with enough leaders and resources to present a menacing insurgency.
The Pentagon’s internal watchdog released a report last month saying Daesh remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria.
It warned the group could resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory without sustained pressure.
The US believes Iraq is the location of its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.


Daesh attacks kill 27 Syria pro-regime fighters in 48 hours: monitor

Updated 2 min 12 sec ago
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Daesh attacks kill 27 Syria pro-regime fighters in 48 hours: monitor

BEIRUT: Attacks by Daesh group fighters deep in the Syrian Desert killed 27 Damascus troops and allied fighters over the past 48 hours, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead included four senior Syrian army officer.
The Amaq propaganda arm of Daesh, which lost the last vestige of its “caliphate” to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria last month but retains desert and mountain hideouts in both Syria and Iraq, said its fighters carried out the operation.