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Backed Syrian force launches 'final battle' against ISIL

10 February, 2019, 13:27 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • Kurds in Iraq say US withdrawal from Syria a mistake

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will launch what has been described has the "last battle" to clear ISIS militants from villages on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in south-east Syria.

Earlier this week, CBS News visited the frontline and found no sign of a slowdown, as Kurdish-led troops closed in on the last strip of ISIS territory, backed up by USA and coalition airstrikes.

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.

The SDF, backed by USA air power, has driven ISIS from large swaths of territory it once controlled in northern and eastern Syria, confining the extremists to a small pocket of land near the border with Iraq.

In the past week and a half, more than 20,000 civilians have been evacuated from the besieged area.

Trump said in December he was pulling all 2,000 US troops out of Syria, saying the battle against ISIL there was nearly won.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the AP news agency "the most experienced" jihadists are defending their last stronghold.

The announcement comes days after the SDF said that it was opposed to the creation of a Turkey-controlled security zone in north-eastern Syria and proposed worldwide monitoring of the area.

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Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria prepared on Friday for a push on the last remaining speck of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) group's "caliphate".

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled an attempted coup by fighters within his own group last month, senior regional intelligence officials have told the Guardian.

One man said they didn't leave before because "we were scared of the consequences of escaping - being put in jail or walking through a minefield".

"The territorial caliphate, which has not yet been wiped out, is being defeated", minister Florence Parly said in Baghdad.

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

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and their female equivalent, the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), have formed the backbone of the SDF.

The Kurds, who have de facto autonomy in northeastern Syria, are also engaged in behind-the-scenes diplomatic talks over the fate of the region.

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