Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Islamic State launches counter attacks at Syria enclave

Islamic State launches counter attacks at Syria enclave

"That's a sign they will fight", says a soldier belonging to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the front lines battling the jihadists. "(The caliphate) still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network".

The jihadists, waging a last-ditch battle in Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, dispatched suicide bombers against SDF fighters, who thwarted the attacks, the US -backed force said.

"[The] number of Daesh members surrendered to us since yesterday evening has risen to 3,000".

SDF commander Adnan Efrin told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday that the Kurdish-led forces had rescued tens of thousands of civilians during the past month with thousands of Islamic State members surrendering as well.

As the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria enters its final stages, the BBC's Jewan Abdi says the mood amongst numerous jihadists' supporters who have left the area - including women and children - remains defiant.

The SDF on Tuesday said the battle for Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, was as good as over.

"But one reason that the President has committed to keeping an American presence in Iraq and a small part of an observer force in Syria is against the possibility that there would be a real resurgence of ISIS, and we would then have the ability to deal with that if that arose."

Islamic State's defenses include extensive tunnels.

A CNN team in Syria witnessed intense shelling of the town throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, but so far the SDF have resisted providing details as to how they expect the remaining ISIS fighter to hold out.

While Baghouz is the last populated territory of what was once the group's self-proclaimed "caliphate", fighters still operate in remote areas elsewhere.

But the diehard IS fighters who stayed to defend the remnants of their "caliphate" struck back with a wave of suicide bombings, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

It said they were reaching the camp in a worse state than before. The Arab-Kurdish alliance, supported by USA air strikes, recently launched an offensive against the portion of territory on the border with Iraq that remained under the control of the Caliphate militiamen.

IS put out a video overnight Monday filmed in recent weeks inside Baghouz, calling on its supporters to keep the faith.

"If we had thousands of kilometres and now we only have some kilometres left, it is said we have lost - but God's judging standard is different", said a man named Abu Abdel Adheem. It finally resumed the attack on Sunday, backed by coalition air strikes. Government forces rained incendiary bombs overnight on Idlib in the northwest, the last major area held by anti-Assad rebels, where fighting has escalated in recent weeks despite a September de-escalation agreement.

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