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OPERATIONS to bring about the final defeat of Isis in Syria have slowed after it was discovered thousands were being held captive by the jihadists in their last stronghold close to the Iraqi border.
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a major offensive last week as part of Operation Cizire Storm. Following the initial advances, US President Donald Trump said on Friday that an announcement on the final defeat of the death cult would be made “over the next 24 hours.”
However SDF commander Ciya Firat told a press conference in Deir Ezzor yesterday: “Isis gangs are cornered in a 600-700 square metre area. Our forces are making slow progress considering the safety of civilians whom the gangs are using as human shields.”
He explained troops had liberated thousands of civilians through humanitarian corridors and provided them with aid. And while the operation had slowed down, he still expected the final defeat of Isis to be announced later this week.
“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh [Isis].”
It marks a major defeat for the jihadists who just four years ago controlled 34,000 square miles of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq. The Islamist terror group declared a caliphate, seeming unstoppable as it swept across the region in convoys of Toyota trucks, killing thousands in its wake.
But it was unable to maintain control as Kurdish forces made advances in Isis strongholds, driving it out of Raqqa into a small pocket in the north-east of Syria, and the Syrian army retook most of its territory in a series of campaigns.
Despite the anticipated announcement of the jihadists’ demise, the United Nations estimates between 14,000 and 18,000 fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, including 3,000 foreign nationals.
Although the Iraqi government announced the defeat of Isis in 2017, pockets remain active in the country mounting guerilla-style attacks in mainly rural areas taking advantage of the poor security situation and sectarian fighting.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres explained in a report to the security council earlier this month that Isis had “substantially evolved into a covert network.”
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