BEIRUT: US-backed fighters braved a sandstorm to battle the Daesh group in eastern Syria on Thursday in heavy clashes that killed several fighters on both sides.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group, said it was fighting to retake the village of Sousah, where the extremists took advantage of the poor visibility to launch a counteroffensive.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting began Wednesday and killed at least 10 US-allied fighters, with the fate of 35 others unknown. It said 18 Daesh militants were killed.
On Wednesday, Daesh launched “a counter attack against SDF positions around Hajjin and nearby towns,” the Observatory said.
“Violent clashes subsequently erupted and are still ongoing,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The SDF denied any of its fighters had been captured during the attack.
“No fighter from the SDF was captured by Daesh on the Deir Ezzor front. This information is not true,” SDF media official Mustefa Bali told AFP.
The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency reported 18 deaths among the SDF fighters and posted photos online of what it said were some of the bodies.
In recent years the SDF, with US air support, has driven Daesh from much of northern and eastern Syria. The extremists have also suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces and Iraqi forces, losing virtually all the territory that once made up their self-styled caliphate.
Sousah is in one of the last pockets of territory held by Daesh, which has put up stiff resistance. The advancing SDF has had to contend with mines, sniper fire and suicide attacks.
Founded in 2015, the SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a powerful Kurdish armed movement.
Hundreds of foreigners have joined the YPG to fight Daesh.
On Wednesday, the force announced that a French national fighting among its ranks had been killed near Hajjin.
Farid Medjahed, born in the French city of Marseilles, died on Oct. 6 fighting Daesh there, the YPG said. It did not say when he arrived in Syria but said it had only been a “short stay.”
In February, the YPG announced that three European nationals had been killed in clashes in Syria.
In one month of fighting for Hajjin, at least 139 SDF fighters and 267 extremists have been killed, the Observatory said.