Islamic State was on the brink of defeat in its final enclave on Tuesday after f...
BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - Islamic State was on the brink of defeat in its final enclave on Tuesday after ferocious bombardments overnight and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said the assault to capture the area was as good as over.
The besieged enclave of Baghouz is the last shred of territory held by the jihadists who have been driven from large areas in Iraq and Syria over the past four years by an array of enemies, including a U.S.-led international coalition.
“The operation is over, or as good as over, but requires a little more time to be completed practically on the ground,” SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told al-Hadath TV.
The enclave was targeted with barrages of rockets overnight and fires raged inside. The SDF said 38 Islamic State fighters were killed. But the guns had fell silent on Tuesday morning with no sign of renewed fighting, Reuters journalists said.
The SDF has been laying siege to Baghouz for weeks but repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow the evacuation of thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of Islamic State fighters. It finally resumed the attack on Sunday, backed by coalition air strikes.
Washington does not believe any senior Islamic State leaders are in Baghouz, assessing they have gone elsewhere as part of the group’s shift toward an insurgency, a U.S. defense official has said.
The group still operates in remote territory elsewhere and it is widely assessed that it will continue to represent a potent security threat.
Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva, Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry in Beirut; Writing by Tom Perry; editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan