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Iraq, Syria converge on Daesh’s last strongholds

US-led coalition says 1,500 Daesh fighters at Al Qaim

By Reuters - Oct 26,2017 - Last updated at Oct 26,2017

Members of the Iraqi forces fire mortars against Kurdish peshmerga positions near the area of Faysh Khabur, located on the Turkish and Syrian borders in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on Thursday (AFP photo)

BAGHDAD/BEIRUT — Iraqi forces launched an attack to drive the Daesh terror group from the last territory it holds in Iraq on Thursday and the Syrian army and its allies said they planned to march on the extremists’ last Syrian stronghold.

The separate assaults across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier aim to deal a final blow to Daesh “caliphate” that has crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqa and swathes of other territory.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said Daesh fighters would have “to choose between death and surrender” as he announced the offensive on the region of Rawa and Al Qaim, which is located at the Syrian border.

The Iraqi air force dropped thousands of leaflets on the border area calling on militants to surrender and urging the population to stay away from their positions, according to a statement from the Joint Operations Command in Baghdad.

“Tell those among your children and relatives who took up a weapon against the state to throw it aside immediately, and to go to any house on top of which a white flag has been raised when the liberation forces enter Al Qaim,” said the text.

Regular Iraqi army units, Sunni tribal forces and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation are taking part in the offensive towards the Syrian border, the Joint Operations Command said.

In a statement welcoming the offensive, the US-led coalition said approximately 1,500 Daesh fighters were estimated to be still in the immediate vicinity of Al Qaim.

In Syria, Daesh has been driven back into a strip of territory along the Euphrates River by separate offensives waged by the Syrian government and its allies on the one hand, and by Syrian militias backed by the US-led coalition on the other.

A report issued by a military news service run by Hizbollah, which is fighting in support of Damascus, said on Thursday that the army and its allies had captured the “T2” pumping station from Daesh.

This was “a launch pad for the army and its allies to advance towards the town of Albu Kamal ... which is considered the last remaining stronghold of the Daesh organisation in Syria”, it said.

Around 70 km from T2, Albu Kamal is located at the Iraqi border in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, just over the frontier from Al Qaim.

Syrian government forces and their allies have made rapid gains against Daesh in Deir Ezzor in recent weeks. 

They have advanced mostly in areas to the west of the Euphrates River where they have captured the town of Al Mayadin and besieged the last Daesh-held pockets of Deir Ezzor city.

The US-led coalition is waging a separate campaign against the group in Deir Ezzor, focused on areas to the east of the Euphrates River.

 

Albu Kamal is located on the western bank of the river.

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