The last of the ISIS militants are holed up in the group’s final enclave in eastern Syria, the SDF has confirmed. The US supported forces has been poised to wipe out the last vestige of ISIS territorial rule in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border. However the operation has been held up by efforts to evacuate thousands of civilians.
Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media office, said: “We won’t storm the village and declare it liberated unless we have completely confirmed the departure of civilians.
“We expect a fierce battle”.
Speaking to American troops on Thursday, US president Donald Trump claimed the mission had been completed “100 percent”.
Trump said: “You kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now’s it’s 100 percent.
“We did that in a much shorter period of time than it was supposed to be.”
The ISIS base in Baghouz is the last populated territory held by the jihadists who have been steadily driven away.
However the group is still seen as a security threat, by using guerrilla tactics and us still holding some territory in a remote area west of the Euphrates River.
Some 40,000 people have crossed out of the jihadists’ diminishing territory in the last three months as the SDF sought to drive it from the remaining territory.
A spokesman for the US led international coalition which supports the SDF said the Kurdish-led Syrian group had adopted a “slow and deliberate” approach to Baghouz.
Colonel Sean Ryan said: “They are dealing with multiple dilemmas and trying to stabilise the area.”
The US has around 2,000 troops in Syria mainly to support the SDF in fighting against Islamic State.
In December the US President said he would withdraw all troops from Syria.
But due to widespread criticism and the resignation of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, the decision was partially reversed and around 200 US troops would now stay in the war-torn region.
ISIS fighters are reportedly furious at their ‘hidden’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliphate continues to lose ground.
Fighters for the terror cult claim that Baghdadi, aged between 47-48, has ‘melted into the desert’ rather than take part in their last stand.
Coalition forces continue to close in on the last small strongholds of ISIS territory – about half a square mile in the Syrian Euphrates valley – and surrendering fighters have reportedly spoken of their anger at their leader.
Mohammed Ali, a Canadian ISIS fighter captured by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told The Sunday Times : “He’s hiding somewhere. People were angry.”
The newspaper reports that western officials in the area, along with other local sources, believe Baghdadi is not in the last patch of ISIS territory but instead is in Anbar, a desert province in Iraq.
Baghdadi declared himself leader of the caliphate in a 2014 speech but he has not appeared in a video since.
Instead he has posted a number of rambling audio messages urging followers to remain loyal and strong.
The last release was in August 2018 where he called for ISIS supporters to attack westerners with guns, bombs and knives.
A source told The Sunday Times: “Around one year ago there were a lot of assassinations between (ISIS members).
“Between those from the Gulf, other groups and Iraqis. They were killing each other.
Baghdadi’s death has been reported numerous times in recent years, but the terrorist leader has re-emerged each time.
This week an Iraqi MP claimed – without evidence that Baghdadi was travelling freely in the Iraqi desert under the protection of the US military.
Hassan Salem said: “IS [ Daesh ] leader Baghdadi is in the Western Desert in Anbar province under US military’s protection… He travels between Iraq and Syria protected by the United States.”
Salem’s claim was dismissed as Iranian propaganda , since he is an MP of the the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, which is a part of Iraq’s Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi fighting force , an Iranian backed militia that is calling on the US to withdraw from Iraq .
Express co UK/Mirror/ YL