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

Gulf News - - Gulf / Region -

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.

AP

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.

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