Daesh fighters pinned on Syrian riverbank, warplanes fly above

Smoke rises from the last Daesh stronghold in the village of Baghouz, Deir Ezzor province, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2019

Daesh fighters pinned on Syrian riverbank, warplanes fly above

  • Defeat there would signal the end of the ultra-hard-line Islamist movement’s control in eastern Syria
  • The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Tuesday said they had driven the remaining Daesh fighters in the town of Baghouz

DEIR EZZOR, Syria: Warplanes flew near Baghouz in eastern Syria early on Wednesday, a Reuters witness said, as the final remnants of the Daesh group held a narrow strip of land along the Euphrates in a last-ditch defense of its dwindling territory.
Defeat there would signal the end of the ultra-hard-line Islamist movement’s control in eastern Syria, having held more than a third of Syria and Iraq at one point in 2014 as it sought to carve out a huge caliphate in the region.
On Tuesday, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they had driven the remaining Daesh fighters in the town of Baghouz from a makeshift encampment that had represented most of its remaining territory.
But while the capture of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, would mark a significant milestone in Syria’s eight-year war and in the battle against the militant group, Daesh remains a threat.
Some of the group’s fighters are still holed up in the central Syrian desert and others have gone underground in Iraqi cities to wage an insurgent campaign to destabilize the government.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, said late on Tuesday that clashes with the militants at the Euphrates were continuing “in several pockets.”


Iraqi PM promises to boost protection for US embassy

Updated 11 min 52 sec ago

Iraqi PM promises to boost protection for US embassy

  • US says one person injured in latest attack on the compound in Baghdad
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi to uphold his country’s sovereignty

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi prime minister has promised to strengthen security for the US embassy in Baghdad after one person was injured in the latest missile attack on the compound.
Adel Abdul Mahdi stressed, in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, the importance of respecting Iraq’s sovereignty by everyone.
He also said there was a need to de-escalate tensions in the region, according to a statement from his office.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, a top US commander for the Middle East, said on Monday mortars were used in the attack on the embassy that injured one person and caused some material damage the previous night, not katyusha rockets as was initially reported by staffers and a statement from the military.
The mortar attack started a fire that was put out. He said no US military members were injured, but that one US national received a minor injury but has returned to work.
The US embassy is within the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, and has been a flashpoint amid wider regional tensions between the US and Iran, which have played out inside Iraq in recent weeks. Iraqi supporters of an Iran-backed militia stormed the embassy compound on Dec. 31, smashing the main door and setting fire to the reception area.
An initial military statement said at least five katyusha rockets had landed inside the Green Zone late Sunday. It was the third attack targeting the US embassy this month, and the perpetrators were not immediately known. Perpetrators had used katyusha rockets in previous attacks and caused no injuries.
There was no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks. But the US has accused Iran-backed militias of targeting US interests by attacking military bases housing Americans and diplomatic missions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi to uphold his country’s “sovereignty” in the face of “attacks” from Iran on US facilities in Iraq.
Pompeo “expressed his outrage at the continued assaults by Iran’s armed groups against US facilities in Iraq, including yesterday’s rocket attacks against our Embassy, which resulted in one injury,” the State Department said in a statement.
The statement said that “these attacks demonstrate a wanton disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and a failure to rein in these dangerous armed groups.”
Pompeo said on Twitter that “the government of #Iraq must take immediate steps to protect our diplomatic facilities as required by international law.”

* With AP/AFP