BAGHOUZ (Syria): Kurdish-led forces pronounced the end of the militant Islamic State (IS) group’s nearly five-year-old “caliphate” on Saturday after flushing out diehard fighters from their last bastion in eastern Syria.
Fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)raised their yellow flag in Baghouz, the remote riverside village where militants of a variety of nationalities made a desperate, dramatic last stand.
The SDF’s victory capped a deadly six-month operation against the final remnants of the ‘caliphate’ which once stretched across a vast swathe of Iraq and Syria, and held seven million people in its sway.
World leaders hail the victory as a major landmark but warn the militant group is far from being defeated
World leaders hailed the victory as a major landmark in the fight against IS and its ideology, but warned that the group that spurred a spate of global terror attacks was far from defeated.
“Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100 per cent territorial defeat of ISIS,” spokesman Mustefa Bali said in a statement, using another acronym for IS.
The state proclaimed in mid-2014 by fugitive IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi started collapsing in 2017 when parallel offensives in Iraq and Syria wrested back its main hubs Mosul and Raqa.
The nearly five years of fighting against the most brutal militant group in modern history left major cities in ruins and populations homeless.
The territory administered by the remnants of IS continued to shrink month after month and in September 2018 the SDF launched a final offensive on the last dregs of the “caliphate” in its Euphrates Valley strongholds.
SDF fighters last week expelled IS fighters who refused to surrender from an encampment on the edge of Baghouz and have since been hunting down a few survivors hiding on the reedy banks of the Euphrates.
“Those who lasted the longest were mostly foreigners… Tunisians, Moroccans, Egyptians,” Kurdish fighter Hisham Harun, 21, said.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2019