Daesh desperately trying to hang on a year after defeat
Following rout in Iraq and with nowhere to run, militants are putting up fierce fight
Ayear after it was routed from Iraq in a devastating war that left entire neighbourhoods and towns in ruins, Daesh is fighting to hang on to its last enclave in eastern Syria, engaging in deadly battles with US-backed forces.
Cornered in the desert near the Iraqi border with nowhere to run, the militants are putting up a fierce fight, inflicting hundreds of casualties among their opponents and releasing a stream of beheading videos reminiscent of the extremist group’s terrifying propaganda at the height of its power.
The battle for Hajin has dragged on for three months, highlighting the difficulty of eradicating an extremist group determined to survive.
In Iraq, there is concern that the group may stage a comeback. Daesh sleeper cells have recently launched attacks against security forces and kidnapped and killed civilians.
“There is still major danger for Iraq and Syria especially in areas close to the border when it comes to Daesh,” a senior Iraqi intelligence official said.
He said Daesh lost most of the income it once made from oil and taxes imposed in areas it controlled. The group now relies on selling gold and other reserves that they had accumulated after declaring their caliphate in June 2014. He said the money is being used to buy weapons and finance attacks in Iraq and Syria.
The area that Daesh still holds in Syria represents less than 1 per cent of the territory it controlled at its height. The pocket is home to some 15,000 people, including Daesh fighters and their families. The US military estimates there are about 2,000 remaining Daesh fighters there.
“It is very difficult because we are in the last stages, where almost every [Daesh] fighter is a suicide belt,” Brett McGurk, the White House envoy for the war against Daesh, said at a security conference held recently in Bahrain.
This October 15, 2017 photo shows a group of Syrian Daesh ■ fighters who surrendered at a base of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in Raqqa.