Kurdish-led forces ready for push on last ISIS pocket

Blanche Robertson
February 10, 2019

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia has launched a "final battle" against the last remnant of the Islamic State (IS) group's so-called caliphate in northeastern Syria, an SDF official said.

It said USA -led coalition warplanes are giving cover to advancing SDF fighters.

The announcement came from the SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, who said it would be the final assault on the remaining two villages.

Recent gains by Kurdish-led forces in Syria have shrunk the Islamic State group's "caliphate" to less than one percent of its original size, the US-led coalition said on February 7.

According to the Observatory, more than 37,000 people, including dozens of ISIL militants, have fled the last ISIL-held pocket to areas controlled by the SDF in the eastern Euphrates region since last December.

He later postponed the operation after talks with his American counterpart Donald Trump, who announced a USA troop pull-out from Syria.

"This battle will be sealed in the coming days".

Bali did not say how long they expecte the battle to last.

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FILE PHOTO: Fighters from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are seen after arresting a wounded man during their fighting with Islamic State in the northern area of Deir al-Zor, Syria September 24, 2017. Some of these are the most battle-hardened, ruthless and experienced fighters remaining in ISIS.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled an attempted coup by fighters within his own group last month, senior regional intelligence officials have told the Guardian.

The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the conflict, instead developing semi-autonomous institutions in parts of the country's northeast under their control.

On Wednesday he said: "It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate".

IS has suffered substantial losses, but the United Nations says it still reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners.

He said that when the SDF detects movement from IS fighters, they bomb them, but added: "There have not been any major changes".

The Observatory said suspected ISIS sleeper cells have allegedly assassinated at least 50 civilians and 135 SDF fighters in Kurdish-held territory since August.

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