- US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared the defeat of ISIS on Saturday, after liberating the last area held by the group in Syria.
- The victory came after weeks of intense fighting in eastern Syria and after five years of fighting to retake ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria.
- While the terrorist group’s physical "caliphate" is no more, it lives in offshoot jihadist groups around the world and in the media presence the group established for itself.
Gen. Mazloum Kobani, a commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, announced the "physical defeat" of ISIS on Saturday, hours after the SDF reported the liberation of the terrorist group’s last redoubt in the Syrian village of Baghouz.
"We are proud of what we have accomplished," said Kobani, whose SDF has been the US’s partner in Syria and borne the brunt of the offensive.
The tent camp where ISIS fighters made their final stand had been bombed to shreds. Scorched remains of vehicles, scraps of tents, and rubble from buildings were scattered across a field riven by abandoned trenches. ISIS’ black flag lay half-buried, while the yellow flag of the SDF flew above a bombed-out building.
The defeat of ISIS in Baghouz comes after weeks of intense fighting and marks the end of a long and bloody campaign to retake the vast swaths of territory that ISIS claimed across Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The months and years ahead are likely to see more operations against ISIS remnants and others emulating the group, but below, you can see what the final days of fighting to eliminate the "caliphate" looked like in eastern Syria.
Baghouz, a tiny village between Iraq in the east and the Euphrates River to the west and south, was ISIS’ last refuge as the remaining members of the terrorist group retreated down the river valley under constant assault from US-led coalition air power and coalition-backed forces on the ground.
By January, thousands of ISIS fighters and others were in the village, surrounded by opposition forces who began their final assault in early February.
Hundreds of civilians fled the area before the assault began. At the outset, SDF officials estimated there were about 1,500 civilians and 500 ISIS fighters in Baghouz.
REUTERS/ Rodi Said
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