Last ISIS Holdout on Verge of Defeat in East Syria

February 16, 2019 Updated: February 16, 2019

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria—The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will capture the ISIS terrorist group last enclave in eastern Syria “in a very short time,” the battle commander said on Saturday, Feb. 16.

The victory will bring the terrorist group, whose self-proclaimed caliphate once stretched across swathes of Syria and Iraq, to the brink of total territorial defeat.

Jiya Furat said the SDF had cornered the remaining ISIS terrorists in one tiny neighborhood of Baghouz village, under its fire from all sides.

Jiya Furat talks during a press conference near Baghouz
Jiya Furat, commander of the assault on the last jihadist enclave in eastern Syria, talks during a press conference near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, on Feb. 16, 2019. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

With the help of U.S. airstrikes and special forces, the SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG militia, has marched into the pocket east of the Euphrates river near the Iraqi border.

Mostly foreign jihadists are making their last stand in Baghouz, SDF officials say. Thousands of civilians have streamed out escaping the violence this week alone.

ISIS terrorists waving flags
ISIS terrorists waving flags travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province, on June 30, 2014. (Stringer/Reuters)

Furat, the SDF offensive’s commander, said the jihadists only held 700 square meters now. But his fighters were moving cautiously because of civilians and hostages.

“Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said. “In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh.”

Islamic State billboards
ISIS terrorist group billboards are seen along a street in Raqqa, eastern Syria, which is controlled by the terrorists, on Oct. 29, 2014. The billboard (R) reads: “We will win despite the global coalition.” (Nour Fourat/Reuters)

Still, he added the SDF would soon move to the next phase of “chasing down sleeper cells and remnants spread out across the region to secure it.”

Spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters the SDF had caught several militants who tried to flee among the civilians while others had handed themselves over.

Displaced Iraqis flee their homes
Displaced Iraqis flee their homes as Iraqi forces battle with ISIS terrorists, in the district of Maamoun in western Mosul, Iraq, on Feb. 25, 2017. (Alaa Al-Marjani/File Photo/Reuters)

The SDF believes a few hundred terrorists may still be holed up in the enclave, he said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier the SDF had taken control of all of Baghouz after the terrorists still there surrendered. SDF officials denied this.

By Rodi Said