The Kurdish-led and US-back Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that they crushed the last remaining pocket of jihadist resistance in Syria. Damascus earlier dismissed the celebratory news as a “bluff.”
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) suffered “total elimination” and “a 100 percent territorial defeat,” SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali announced on Saturday. The news came after Kurdish forces reported heavy fighting near Baghouz in northeastern Deir ez-Zor Province, along the Iraqi border.
Baghouz was regarded as the last remaining pocket of Islamic State resistance in Syria. The SDF, assisted by US airstrikes, spent the past few months closing in on the militants as its troops were clearing IS holdouts along the Euphrates Valley.
As reports of Baghouz being on the verge of complete liberation were coming in, US President Donald Trump rushed to boast of the US-led Coalition’s victories. Earlier this week, he showed reporters a map showcasing how IS-controlled territory has dramatically shrunk over the years, and said that the militants “are losers and barely breathing.”
On Wednesday, Trump even promised that IS will be “gone by tonight,” despite the SDF still reporting that it was waging battles that day.
Syria’s envoy to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, dismissed Trump’s jubilant language as a “bluff” and “untrustworthy.”
“ISIS is not over yet in Syria,” he said, adding that militants are still hiding in the Rukban refugee camp, located within the US-controlled area.