Anti-Isis Forces Retake Last Jihadist Bastion
Syrian troops and allied militiamen on Thursday (November 9) expelled Islamic State group fighters from Albu Kamal, the last significant town the jihadists still held in their disintegrating "caliphate".
The jihadists' latest rout left them with only the dregs of a self-styled "state" that once spanned huge territory in Iraq and Syria, with surviving ISIS fighters melting away into desert hideouts.
Anti-ISIS forces stormed into the town just across the border from Iraq on Wednesday and while fighting was initially reported as fierce, the outcome of one of ISIS's last major battles was never in doubt.
"Our armed forces units, in cooperation with allied and auxiliary forces, have liberated the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province," a statement carried by the official SANA news agency said.
"Albu Kamal's liberation is very important because it means the failure of the ISIS terrorist group in the region," the army statement said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said much of the fighting had been done by allied militias rather than the regular army.
The capture of Albu Kamal was be the last in a string of setbacks that saw ISIS lose its urban bastions of Mosul and Raqqa within a few weeks and its embryonic state shrink to a rump.
Leading the battle for the town were the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah and advisers from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, as well as fighters from mostly Shiite Iraqi militias, according to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said that even as ISIS still controlled half of the town and fighting raged earlier Thursday, the jihadists retained one escape route to the north.
Abdel Rahman confirmed that Albu Kamal had been fully retaken but said that "ISIS withdrew to desert areas in eastern Deir Ezzor" province, where they are likely to encounter US-backed Kurdish-led fighters.