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Iraq reinforces border with Syria, fearing Daesh spillover

By AFP - Nov 04,2018 - Last updated at Nov 04,2018

Iraqi forces gather near the Al Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq on November 1 (AFP photo)

AL QAIM, Iraq — Iraqi troops have reinforced their positions along the porous frontier with neighbouring war-torn Syria, fearing a spill over from clashes there between Daesh group extremists and US-backed forces.

For weeks, Daesh has fought back an assault by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on a key extremist-held pocket in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq.

It managed to recapture some territory from the SDF around Hajin, prompting Baghdad to dispatch reinforcements to its own border, including paramilitary units from the Hashed Al Shaabi and the army.

"All measures have been taken: we have control towers, observation posts, dirt barriers and trenches," Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Mohammad, the head of one border unit, said Thursday.

"The SDF's retreat will not be a threat to Iraq," he added.

Soldiers could be seen posted along a sand berm topped by barbed wire and decorated with Iraqi flags, according to an AFP videojournalist at the scene.

Military vehicles patrolled between barracks, and soldiers stationed at observation posts pointed their machine guns towards the Syrian border.

Helicopters and more armoured cars arrived throughout the day.

According to Iraqi General Qassem Al Mohammadi, who heads operations in Iraq's western Anbar province, Daesh fighters were just "five or six kilometres away, inside Syria".

Anbar, a massive desert governorate which extends from the edge of Baghdad west towards the Syrian border, served as a extremist bastion before Iraqi forces retook it in late 2017.

Across the border in Syria, two separate offensives have aimed at ousting Daesh from the frontier with Iraq.

One has been carried out by Russian-backed Syrian troops, who have cleared Daesh from territory west of the Euphrates River.

That includes the Albu Kamal border post with Iraq, which was captured last year. Authorities in both Baghdad and Damascus said in mid-October that they hope to revitalise cross-border trade through it as soon as possible.

The SDF is still fighting Daesh east of the Euphrates around Hajin, where the US-led coalition estimates around 2,000 extremists are based.

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