U.S.-backed SDF nears victory over Islamic State in east Syria


Jiya Furat, commander of the assault on the last jihadist enclave in eastern Syria, talks during a press conference near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) – The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will capture Islamic State’s last tiny enclave in eastern Syria “in a very short time”, the battle commander said on Saturday.

Jiya Furat said the SDF had cornered the remaining Islamic State militants in one tiny neighborhood of Baghouz village, under its fire from all sides.

With the help of U.S. air strikes and special forces, the SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has marched into the pocket east of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border.

Mostly foreign jihadists are making their last stand in Baghouz, SDF officials say. Many hundreds of civilians streamed out escaping the violence this week alone.

Furat, the SDF offensive’s commander, said the jihadists only held 700 square meters now. But his fighters were moving cautiously because of civilians and hostages in Islamic State captivity.

“The village is under the fire of our forces … but thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he 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.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said earlier the SDF had taken control of the Baghouz pocket after the jihadists still there surrendered.

Reporting by Rodi Said in eastern Syria; Writing by Ellen Francis in Beirut; Editing by Mark Potter

Source : Denver Post