Tuesday 26 March 2019

Isil's last stronghold on brink of collapse

SDF fighters take a rest in the frontline Syrian village of Baghouz. Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images
SDF fighters take a rest in the frontline Syrian village of Baghouz. Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Rodi Said

Isil appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where US-backed forces estimate several hundred jihadists are still holed up.

Its capture will nudge the eight-year-old Syrian war towards a new phase, with American President Donald Trump having pledged to withdraw troops, leaving a security vacuum that other powers would seek to fill.

A witness near the front lines at Baghouz on the Iraqi border saw dozens of trucks leaving the village and a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were bringing out civilians.

The US-led coalition said it could not verify reports about militants surrendering.

On Twitter, it said the SDF was continuing to evacuate civilians and the "most hardened" fighters remained within Baghouz, the final scrap of ground left to Isil in the Euphrates valley region which became its last major stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

Its fall marks a big moment in the terror group's trajectory, from winning control over vast territories in 2014 and proclaiming the creation of a caliphate to rule over Muslims, to its stubborn demise under concerted military attacks.

Irish Independent

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