Daesh (ISIS) launched a deadly counter-offensive Wednesday to repel US-backed forces advancing on a final militant-held pocket of eastern Syria, a monitor said.
The Daesh militants managed to take hostage several dozen fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The SDF, a Kurdish and Arab alliance, has been waging a month-long assault backed by US-led coalition air strikes to oust Daesh from a small area in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zor province, including the town of Hajin.
On Wednesday, Daesh launched “a counter-attack against SDF positions around Hajin and nearby towns,” the Observatory said.
“Violent clashes subsequently erupted and are still ongoing,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said Daesh had killed at least 10 SDF fighters and taken another 35 hostage.
The SDF denied any of its fighters had been captured during the attack.
“No fighter from the SDF was captured by Daesh on the Deir al-Zor front. This information is not true,” SDF media official Mustefa Bali told AFP.
Daesh published a statement on its social media accounts on Wednesday describing an attack by “soldiers of the caliphate” against SDF forces.
The Observatory said Daesh militants had taken advantage of a sandstorm raging in the remote Deir al-Zor province to attack SDF fighters, who could not be protected by coalition warplanes due to poor visibility.
In one month of fighting for Hajin, at least 139 SDF fighters and 267 Daesh militants have been killed, the monitor said.
The SDF, backed by the coalition, has ousted Daesh from swathes of northern and eastern Syria, including Raqqa, the de facto capital of the militants’ so-called caliphate.
Founded in 2015, the SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a powerful Kurdish armed movement.
Hundreds of foreigners have joined the YPG to fight IS.
On Wednesday, the force announced that a French national fighting among its ranks had been killed near Hajin.
Farid Medjahed, born in the French city of Marseilles, died on Oct. 6 fighting Daesh there, the YPG said.
It did not say when he arrived in Syria but said it had only been a “short stay”.
In February, the YPG announced that three European nationals had been killed in Syria.