Thu, 27 Jun 2019

U.S.-backed forces in Syria were locked in fierce fighting as they pressed the battle against the last enclave held by the extremist group Islamic State (IS) near the Iraqi border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy clashes between both sides on the morning of February 10, as planes of the U.S.-led coalition and artillery bombarded militant positions.

After a pause of more than a week to allow some 20,000 civilians to leave the area, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were launching the 'final battle to oust IS from the last scrap of territory it holds in eastern Syria.

An SDF spokesman later said that the battle was 'very fierce' as the most experienced' militants were defending their last stronghold.

Two years ago, the IS group controlled large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory, but they are now holed up in a tiny pocket in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zor.

On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump said: 'It should be announced, probably some time next week, that we will have 100% of the caliphate.'

Trump said in December that IS militants were 'mostly gone' and announced the United States would withdraw all of its 2,000 troops from Syria.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and the BBC

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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