US-backed fighters in Syria say they’re assembly fierce resistance as they assault the final enclave held by Islamic State (IS) militants within the nation.
A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) instructed the AP information company “probably the most skilled” jihadists are defending their final stronghold.
Two years in the past IS managed massive areas of Syria and Iraq.
However they’re now confined to a tiny pocket in Syria’s japanese province of Deir al-Zour, close to the Iraqi border.
On Saturday, after a pause of greater than per week to permit some 20,000 civilians to go away the world, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali mentioned the group was launching the “ultimate battle to crush IS” within the border village of Baghuz.
In a single day he instructed the Related Press (AP): “The battle could be very fierce. These remaining inside are probably the most skilled who’re defending their final stronghold. In keeping with this you’ll be able to think about the ferocity and measurement of the preventing.”
The SDF, backed by air strikes carried out of the US-led coalition, has pushed out IS from cities and villages in north-eastern Syria in latest months.
At its peak in 2014, IS established a “caliphate” stretching throughout Syria and Iraq that was comparable in measurement to the UK and dominated over greater than 7.7 million individuals.
In December, US President Donald Trump mentioned IS militants have been “principally gone” and introduced the US would withdraw all of its 2,000 troops from Syria.
On Wednesday he mentioned: “It must be introduced, most likely a while subsequent week, that we’ll have 100% of the caliphate.”
IS’s final stand?
Evaluation by BBC Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher
Over the previous few months, the US-backed SDF has patiently pushed IS out of each city and village within the northeast of Syria. The jihadists have been lowered to only a few sq. kilometres/miles of territory.
In latest days, President Trump has mentioned the overall defeat of IS could possibly be declared subsequent week. This fits his agenda of withdrawing all US troops from Syria.
Nevertheless it’s not the complete image – IS nonetheless holds one other sliver of territory in Syria additional west – whereas its sleeper cells stay lively.
It is the identical story in Iraq. Its capacity to proceed a guerrilla insurgency persists.
The destiny of its hostages, such because the British journalist, John Cantlie, stays unclear – as does that of its chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
What number of militants are left?
IS has suffered substantial losses, however the UN says it nonetheless reportedly controls between 14,000 and 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, together with as much as 3,000 foreigners.
In the meantime, there are vital numbers of IS-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, South-East Asia and West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Somalia, Yemen, Sinai and the Sahel.
People impressed by the group’s ideology additionally proceed to hold out assaults elsewhere.