IS forces iso­lated, near de­feat

Sunday Herald Sun - - NEWS -

IS­LAMIC State’s self-pro­claimed caliphate is on the verge of de­feat, with Syr­ian forces cap­tur­ing its last ma­jor city on one side of the bor­der and Iraqi forces tak­ing its last sub­stan­tial town on the other.

The losses on ei­ther side of the fron­tier ap­pear to re­duce the caliphate that once ruled over mil­lions of peo­ple to a sin­gle Syr­ian bor­der town, a vil­lage on the Euphrates in Iraq and patches of nearby desert.

Of­fi­cials on both sides of the bor­der said vic­tory could come swiftly, although they feared IS would re­con­sti­tute as a guer­rilla force.

Iraq’s Prime Min­is­ter Haidar Abadi an­nounced on Fri­day that gov­ern­ment forces had cap­tured al-Qaim, the bor­der town where the Euphrates spills from Syria into Iraq.

That leaves just the vil­lage of Rawa fur­ther down the river on the op­po­site bank still in the hands of the ul­tra-hard­line mil­i­tants, who swept through a third of Iraq in 2014.

On the Syr­ian side, gov­ern­ment forces de­clared vic­tory in Deir al-Zor, the last ma­jor city in the coun­try’s east­ern desert where the mil­i­tants still had a pres­ence. Gov­ern­ment forces are now about 40km from Albu Ka­mal, the Syr­ian town across the bor­der from alQaim, and prepar­ing for a fi­nal confrontation.

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