Gulf News

Daesh evacuate their last stronghold



After their withdrawal from Al Bu Kamal the terrorists dispersed to desert villages |

Daesh militants withdrew yesterday from their last stronghold in Syria, a strategic town near the border with Iraq, following a government offensive that has effectivel­y left the extremist group’s fighters dispersed in villages and small towns in the desert.

The Syrian military declared the town liberated after intense battles that killed a large number of militants, including leaders. The military said they are still chasing other Daesh militants in different directions in the desert.

“The liberation of Al Bu Kamal is of great importance because it is a declaratio­n of the fall of this group’s project in the region generally and the collapse of its supporters’ illusions to divide it, control large parts of the Syria-Iraq borders and secure supply routes between the two countries,” said Army spokesman Gen. Ali Mayhoub in a televised statement.

Liberated at last

Syrian pro-government media said Syrian troops had clashed with the remaining militants in town after they entered it late Wednesday. Yesterday, they reported the town clear of Daesh fighters.

Pro-Syrian media reported the town was liberated. Al Ikhbariya TV’s journalist reported from the road to the town, joyfully breaking out on camera: “Daesh is finished. Live.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights said government forces and allied troops, including Iraqi forces who linked from across the border, are combing through Al Bu Kamal after Daesh militants withdrew.

With the collapse of Daesh in Al Bu Kamal, its fighters have no major territoria­l control in Syria and Iraq and are believed to have dispersed in the desert west and east of the Euphrates River. US officials have estimated that there were between 2,500 and 3,500 Daesh militants around Al Bu Kamal. Leading members of the group were also believed to have taken refuge in Al Bu Kamal.

Daesh has suffered consecutiv­e defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneo­us offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russianbac­ked

Syrian forces and allied militias as well as US-backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.

Despite its fall, the group’s media apparatus has remained active and its fighters are likely to keep up their insurgency from desert areas.

The swift fall of Al Bu Kamal in eastern Deir Al Zor province was accelerate­d after Iraqi forces seized Qaim, the town across the border last weekend, also controllin­g a strategic crossing between the two countries.

Iraqi tie-up

A senior Iraqi official said there was an agreement Tuesday to send Iraqi paramilita­ries to Syria to take part in the Al Bu Kamal operation, adding that the Syrians were to supply them with weapons and gear. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak.

An Iraqi spokesman for the Popular Mobilisati­on Forces told The Associated Press last week that his forces, part of the Iraqi security forces, would participat­e in the operation and will head north to protect the borders and secure the road from Iran to Lebanon.

Al Bu Kamal is the last urban centre for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops — backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the border town.

Washington is wary of increasing Iranian influence in the area and has backed the SDF in their bid to uproot Daesh from the borders with Iraq. The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Al Bu Kamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Arab Emirates