US-backed Syrian fighters are reported to have overrun an encampment that created up most of the final patch of territory held by the Islamic State group.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance stated militants refusing to surrender had pulled back to a sliver of land along the River Euphrates south of Baghuz, and that clashes continued.
Even though it warned the battle was not more than, some fighters started celebrating.
Baghuz’s fall would bring an finish to the “caliphate” proclaimed by IS in 2014.
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The jihadist group as soon as controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of land stretching across Syria and Iraq, imposed its rule on just about eight million folks, and generated billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.
Right after 5 years of bloody battles, nearby forces backed by planet powers have driven IS out of all but a handful of hundred square metres.
But the group is by no signifies defeated. US officials think IS may well have 15,000 to 20,000 armed adherents active in the area, quite a few of them in sleeper cells, and that it will return to its insurgent roots whilst attempting to rebuild.
How quite a few militants are left in Baghuz?
It is not identified. At the begin of March, when the SDF started its final assault on the village, commanders estimated there had been a handful of hundred militants holed up inside.
But the Kurdish-led alliance was forced to slow its offensive following it emerged that a substantial quantity of civilians had been also there, sheltering in buildings, tents and tunnels.
As quite a few as 20,000 youngsters and females – quite a few of them foreign nationals – have considering that been evacuated to an SDF-run camp for displaced folks at al-Hol, swelling its population to 70,000 and overwhelming help workers. Various thousand males have also surrendered and been taken to separate SDF detention centres.
Militants who chose to stay in Baghuz continued to put up fierce resistance, deploying suicide bombers and auto bombs, but by Monday they had been driven back to a tiny patch of open farmland subsequent to the Euphrates that was covered in tents, cars and foxholes.
On Tuesday morning, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali stated it had taken handle of the encampment and that the final militants had retreated to the riverbank.
“This is not a victory announcement, but a substantial progress in the fight against [IS],” he cautioned in a Twitter post. “Clashes are continuing as a group of [IS] terrorists who are confined into a tiny location nonetheless fight back.”
Mr Bali added that hundreds of sick and wounded militants had been captured by the SDF as it took the encampment and that they had been taken to hospitals.
Are SDF fighters celebrating also early?
On Tuesday afternoon, the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool saw lorries leaving Baghuz packed with what he was told had been hundreds of militants, as properly as SDF fighters celebrating on their return from the front lines.
Jiaker Amed, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, told our correspondent they had been celebrating “a victory for all humanity”.
Mr Amed declared that all IS territory in Baghuz had been retaken, though he admitted that some militants may be hiding underground in tunnels.
Later, Mr Bali told Reuters news agency that fighting was continuing and that militants remained “in quite a few pockets”. “Their presence is not restricted to a defined geography,” he added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-primarily based monitoring group, meanwhile reported that at least 14 SDF fighters had been killed and 30 other people injured by IS gunfire and landmine explosions as they attacked the encampment.
An Italian man fighting for the SDF, Lorenzo Orsetti, was killed on Sunday.
Even with its defeat in Baghuz imminent, IS released a defiant audio recording purportedly from its spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir that asserted that the caliphate was not more than.
Muhajir accused US President Donald Trump of “falsely” announcing victory more than IS in Syria in December, and insisted IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive.