Syrian army frees eastern city from ISIS, state media says

Trevor Jackson
November 4, 2017

All the players in the multilayered war covet influence there, and several forces are converging: the alliance that supports the Syrian government; the rival American-backed group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces; and Iraqi forces, who are pursuing Islamic State holdouts on their side of the border.

Welcoming the offensive, the USA -led global military coalition, which has run an air campaign against the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq since 2014, said in a statement that approximately 1,500 Islamic State fighters were estimated to remain in the immediate vicinity of al-Qaim.

A senior Iranian official said on Friday that Syrian government forces would advance soon to take Raqqa city, which US -backed fighters seized from Islamic State last month.

The commander added that Iraqi forces have also established control over the nearby Al-Qaim border crossing.

The army, backed by Russian bombers, Iranian and Shi'ite militias, is advancing towards the last significant town held by ISIS in Syria, Albu Kamal, which is also located on the western bank of the Euphrates.

The Syrian army, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by the United States, are now racing to take the rest of the oil-rich eastern province, including the key town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the "heroic forces" on their progress in the operation, which began just over a week ago, according to a statement issued by the country's Joint Operations Command.

US Army spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said: "We do expect them now to try to flee, but we are cognisant of that and will do all we can to annihilate ISIS leaders". The Iraqis, with the support of the global coalition, have now liberated almost all of the territory once held by ISIS in Iraq, they said.

He estimated that there were 1,500 to 2,500 fighters left in Al-Qaim and 2,000 to 3,000 in Al-Bukamal.

"The idea of ISIS and the virtual caliphate, that will not be defeated in the near term".

Driven this year from its two de facto capitals - Iraq's Mosul and Syria's Raqqa - Islamic State is pressed into an ever-shrinking pocket of desert straddling the frontier.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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