Heavy fight grips last Islamic State bastion in eastern Syria

Syria forces used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: Al-Masdar News]
Syrian forces used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: Al-Masdar News]

Heavy battles raged on Wednesday between U.S.-backed Syrian forces and Islamic State in the militant group’s last pocket in Eastern Syria, a Kurdish commander said.

On March 10, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a rebel Kurdish-led group, resumed a campaign supported by a U.S.-led air coalition with the aim of capturing the village of Baghuz in energy-rich eastern Syria after evacuating thousands of civilians from the enclave.

“Fighting is fierce. There are a lot of casualties among the Daesh fighters,’’ Adnan Afrin, an SDF commander, told dpa, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

He did not give specific figures.

The U.S.-led alliance meanwhile mounted a series of airstrikes against Islamic State positions in the area, a dpa reporter at the scene reported.

Heavy and mid-sized weapons were used in the clashes between the SDF forces and Islamic State extremists in Baghuz, the reporter added.

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Islamic State’s mouthpiece, the Amaaq News Agency, said at least seven SDF fighters were killed or injured in the fighting on Wednesday.

Baghuz, located on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, is the last significant territory still in the hands of Islamic State, which for years controlled swathes of both countries.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said a blast hit SDF premises in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, killing and injuring an unspecified number of SDF fighters.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and said two SDF militiamen were killed.

Syria’s Kurds have played a major role in fighting the Islamic State in the war-torn country. (dpa/NAN)

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