Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 1 News List

IS ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria: commander

Reuters, NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter walks in a village retaken from Islamic State militants near Hajin, Syria, on Saturday.

Photo: AP

US-backed fighters in Syria were poised to capture the Islamic State (IS) group’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates River, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat as US President Donald Trump spoke of “100 percent victory.”

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides, Jiya Furat said.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of DAESH,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a tweet. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”

“The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!” he wrote.

Trump has sworn to pull US forces from Syria after the group’s territorial defeat, raising questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies and Turkish involvement in northeast Syria.

As the SDF advanced under heavy US airstrikes, a stream of civilians fled the few square kilometers of hamlets and farmland that remain under IS control, along with defeated extremists trying to escape unnoticed.

Although IS fighters still hold out in a pocket of central Syria’s remote desert, and have gone underground as sleeper cells in Iraqi cities, able to launch new attacks, their territorial rule is, for now, almost over.

It ends a project launched from the great medieval mosque of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seized advantage of regional chaos to proclaim himself caliph, suzerain over all Muslim people and land.

He set up a governing system with courts, a currency and flag that at its height stretched from northwest Syria almost to Baghdad, encompassing about 2 million inhabitants.

However, its reign of terror over minorities and other perceived enemies, marked by massacres, sexual slavery and the beheading of hostages, drew a forceful international military response that pushed it steadily back from 2015.

Most of the fighters left in Baghouz were foreigners, the SDF has said, among the thousands drawn by Baghdadi’s promise of a new Muslim utopia straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and expunging national borders.

All that remains is an encircled pocket of about 700m2, Furat said. “Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the SDF had taken control of all of Baghouz after the extremists there surrendered, but SDF officials denied this.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the forces had caught several militants trying to flee among the civilians.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top