Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Airstrike hit: Syria force pounds holdout IS village

Syria Islamic State Loyalties Linger Despite Defeat Children stand together near the village of Baghouz Deir Al Zor province Syria
Leonard Rios | 04 March, 2019, 04:39

Heavy fighting is still underway with ISIS soldiers, Syrian media has reported.

A mass grave containing the bodies of dozens of people who may be Yazidis enslaved by Islamic State has been found in territory recently seized by the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an SDF official said on Thursday.

Releasing them is a gesture of "cooperation, fraternity and clemency", said the statement posted on the website of the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Mr Bali told The Daily Telegraph that said the operation is expected to last two days, but may take a week to complete as hardened jihadists fight back with heavy weapons and suicide auto bombs.

"We expect it to be over soon", Syrian Democratic Force spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted Saturday.

An array of enemies, both local and global, confronted ISIS after it declared a modern-day "caliphate" in 2014 across large swathes of territory it had seized in lightning offensives in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, said coalition airstrikes destroyed several vehicle bombs during the past two days of battle in Baghouz.

In coming days, the Kurdish-led militia plan to storm an area held by jihadists on the edge of the village of Baghouz, the final pocket of the organization's once impressive scale of territory.

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The military operation was halted on February 12 after the SDF discovered there was still a large number of civilians and hostages in the territory, which sits atop caves and tunnels where they had been hiding. As its territory shrunk, thousands of terrorists, followers and civilians retreated to Baghouz.

He said the battles are expected to take place in a very small area that includes a complex network of tunnels, as well as suicide bombers and land mines.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clashed with Islamic State (IS) for almost 18 hours inside Baghouz after removing the remaining civilians and resuming their assault on Friday evening.

The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria, mainly to support the SDF in fighting ISIS.

Thousands of people of many nationalities - both IS supporters and victims - have streamed out of the area in recent weeks, surpassing initial estimates and delaying an end to the battle. It has not ruled out the possibility that some have crept out, hidden among civilians. Afrin told Reuters on Thursday that numerous people leaving the enclave had been sheltering underground in caves and tunnels.

On Thursday, the SDF commander-in-chief said that his force would declare victory within a week.

U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, John Bolton, described the territory ISIS holds as an "insignificant piece of real estate".

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