A picture taken from inside a car shows US military vehicles driving through the Syrian village of Baghouz in the countryside of the eastern Deir ez-Zor province on January 26, 2019. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – ISIS is on the back foot in its last significant territory in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor. The militants are now corralled into about four square kilometres, but are fighting hard to hold onto what remains of their so-called caliphate.
The jihadists launched an early morning attack against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in and around al-Souse, the SDF’s media office stated on Monday.
“There were very strong clashes in which all types of weapons were used,” the force stated.
Three female suicide bombers
blew themselves up near an SDF position, killing and wounding a number of SDF fighters.
Four SDF fighters were killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of the force’s dead to 20 in the past three days.
The SDF reported 288 militants have been killed by their forces and bombardments of the global anti-ISIS coalition in the same three days.
"Geographically speaking, there are only four square kilometres left under ISIS control, stretching from Baghouz to the Iraqi border," SDF commander Heval Roni told AFP on Monday in the Baghouz area.
The village of Baghouz sits in a bend of the Euphrates River just six kilometres from the border with Iraq.
"There are some high-ranking ISIS leaders among them... but we don't know who exactly," Roni said of the militants remaining in the pocket of territory. He believes most of the commanders left are Iraqi.
It is not known if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is among the group.
Thousands of people have fled ISIS-held territory since early December. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates 30,550 people of many different nationalities have fled, “including about 2,770” ISIS members who had hidden themselves among the civilian populations.
The SDF are closely examining
every person in order to separate out the fighters.
Some ISIS members have tried to flee to Turkey. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announced the arrest of three on Monday.
Khalid Walid Ahmed, Salih Khidir Muhammed, and Delovar Dodiev Azimovoich, citizens of Sudan and Tajikistan, were arrested by the YPG on Sunday trying to cross the border into Turkey.