IS in Syria will be defeated within a month: Commander

HASAKEH, Syria (AFP) – Military operations against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria are wrapping up and the last pocket of the militants’ “caliphate” will be flushed out within a month, a top commander said.

“The operation of our forces against IS in its last pocket has reached its end and IS fighters are now surrounded in one area,” Mazloum Kobani, the chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told AFP.

With backing from the US-led coalition, the SDF are in the last phase of an operation started on September 10 to defeat the militants in the Euphrates Valley in eastern Syria.

“We need a month to eliminate IS remnants still in the area,” said Kobani, who spoke to AFP on Thursday near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh.

A few hundred IS fighters are defending a handful of hamlets near the Iraqi border, the last rump of a “caliphate” which the militant organisation proclaimed in 2014 and once covered territory the size of Britain.

“I believe that during the next month we will officially announce the end of the military presence on the ground of the so-called caliphate,” Kobani said.

Intense fighting in the area known as “the Hajin pocket” has left hundreds of fighters dead on both sides, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

IS lost the town of Hajin late last year and the subsequent collapse of its defences saw the Kurdish-led SDF conquer one village after another.

Kobani said their battle had been complicated by the militant group’s shifting strategy after the fall of their de-facto Syrian capital of Raqa in 2017.

File photo shows Kurdish soldiers from the Anti-Terrorism Units, escorting a blindfolded man suspected of Islamic State (IS) membership, at a security centre in Kobani, Syria. – AP