Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Iraq forces defeat IS jihadists in town of Al-Qaim

Iraq forces defeat IS jihadists in town of Al-Qaim Iraq forces defeat IS jihadists in town of Al-Qaim
Andrew Cummings | 04 November, 2017, 00:51

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.

That is all that remains in the country from the vast swathes of territory that the group seized in 2014 as it rampaged across Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

The US-led coalition congratulated the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in a statement.

Yesterday, Syrian state media announced that the army, backed by Russian firepower, had recaptured all of Deir Ezzor city, in the oil-rich east of the country.

The terrorist group had for years besieged a government enclave in Deir al-Zor until an army advance relieved it in early September, starting a battle for jihadist-held parts of the city.

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He estimated there were 1,500-2,500 fighters left in al-Qaim and 2,000-3,000 in Albu Kamal.

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

Troops from the army and the elite Counter Terrorism Service "have started the assault on the center of Al-Qaim", Staff Major General Noman Abed al-Zobai, the commander of the 7th Division, told AFP from the scene.

A US-led global coalition has also been bombing ISIS and supporting ground allies on both sides of the frontier said the militant group now has a few thousand fighters left, mainly holed up at the border in Iraq's al-Qaim and its sister town of Albu Kamal on the Syrian side.

Deir Ezzor had been divided into government-held and ISIS-held parts for almost three years.

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