Backed Syria force announces 'decisive' push against final IS holdout

Backed Syria force announces 'decisive' push against final IS holdout

At about 6 p.m. Saturday, as darkness crept over eastern Syria, Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition aircraft and using artillery and heavy machine guns began an assault of the last ISIS enclave in the country.

"After 10 days of evacuating more than 20,000 civilians. the battle was launched tonight to exterminate the last remnants of the organisation", it said.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, did not indicate how soon he expected the civilian evacuation to be completed, Reuters reported, noting that most of the civilians are family members of ISIS militants.

Over the course of the last two years, the Islamic State has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq, resorting to hunkering in hideouts located in the remaining territories under its control.

President Donald Trump, repeating a variation of an earlier statement by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, predicted earlier this week that the USA military and its coalition partners will have successfully liberated all ISIS-controlled territory.

It said the USA -led coalition struck positions of the IS in the eastern Euphrates to practice more pressure on the group.

The night before, Bali had told Reuters they had opened a safe corridor and were receiving civilians every day.

"This battle will be sealed in the coming days", he said.

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However, hundreds of civilians are still thought to be inside the town.

He said that when the SDF detects movement from IS fighters, they bomb them, but added: "There have not been any major changes".

The SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, has defeated ISIS across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria in recent months, reducing its once expansive caliphate to a fraction of its peak size.

The SDF arrested 63 suspected militants in ISIS's former Syrian capital Raqa on Thursday during an operation against sleeper cells, it said in a statement.

The SDF, which includes the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), backed by Americans, has been a bone of contention in Washington's ties with Ankara.

This suits his agenda of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria.

It quoted regional intelligence officials as saying that a planned move against Baghdadi led to a firefight between foreign fighters and the fugitive terrorist chief's bodyguards, who spirited him away to the nearby deserts.

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