Final Battle Against Islamic State Caliphate ‘to be Over Soon’

Syria Islamic State Loyalties Linger Despite Defeat

The Syrian Democratic Forces closing in on Islamic State's last territorial bastion near the Iraqi border expect a "decisive battle" soon, a spokesman says.

The SDF said that several auto bombs were destroyed by coalition air strikes in the past two days and that SDF fighters had destroyed three other vehicle bombs targeting SDF positions.

The capture of Baghouz and nearby areas would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group's hold on territory in Syria and Iraq, their so-called "caliphate" that at the height of the militant group's power in 2014 ruled over an area the size of the United Kingdom.

Capturing the village in eastern Syria will be a milestone in worldwide efforts to roll back the jihadists, whose self-styled "caliphate" covered roughly one third of Syria and Iraq at its height in 2014.

Columns of black smoke on Sunday billowed from the village of Baghouz, in Deir Az Zor province, where commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said fierce clashes were under way.

The SDF began an operation on Friday to clear the last remaining pocket of ISIS fighters from the besieged village of Baghouz, and the operation resumed on Saturday. The SDF have now cornered the group in a last stretch of territory near the border with Iraq in a final bid to flush them out.

Women and children exit the back of a truck as they arrive at a US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State, in the desert outside Baghouz, Syria, Friday, March 1, 2019.

The jihadists in Baghouz are thought to be the "most hardened" militants.

The SDF said earlier on Thursday that it had freed 24 of its fighters held by militants in Baghouz, but gave no details about how they were recovered.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition and its ground allies, including the SDA, said the pace of the advance had ebbed.

About 15,000 US -backed forces in Syria launched their final assault on the small IS enclave in the northeastern Syrian village of Baghuz late Friday, supported by USA and coalition warplanes and artillery. "Militants are still planting and using IEDs and bombs are exploding as the SDF forces are advancing".

Trump announced in December he would withdraw all of them, but the White House partially reversed itself last month, saying some 400 troops would stay.

Thousands of people of many nationalities - both IS supporters and victims - have streamed out of the area in recent weeks, surpassing initial estimates and delaying an end to the battle.

The final push comes a day after US President Donald Trump again jumped the gun on declaring victory over the jihadists.

"It must be a main weapons depot", said Sefqan, an SDF commander using only his nom de guerre.

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