US-backed SDF nears victory over Islamic State in east Syria

Fighters of the US-trained Syrian Democratic Forces gather at the Al-Tanak oil field on May 1, 2018 as they prepare to assault the Islamic State group near Albu Kamal in parallel with a Russian-backed campaign by pro-government forces. (AFP pic)

NEAR BAGHOUZ: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will capture Islamic State’s last tiny enclave in eastern Syria “in a very short time”, the battle commander said on Saturday.

Jiya Furat said the SDF had cornered the remaining Islamic State militants in one tiny neighbourhood of Baghouz village, under its fire from all sides.

With the help of US air strikes and special forces, the SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has marched into the pocket east of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border.

Mostly foreign jihadists are making their last stand in Baghouz, SDF officials say. Many hundreds of civilians streamed out escaping the violence this week alone.

Furat, the SDF offensive’s commander, said the jihadists only held 700 square metres now. But his fighters were moving cautiously because of civilians and hostages in Islamic State captivity.

“The village is under the fire of our forces … but thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.

“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said earlier the SDF had taken control of the Baghouz pocket after the jihadists still there surrendered.