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Syrian Democratic Forces announce 'final battle' against Islamic State

10 February 2019

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have started the final attacks against the Islamic State (IS) militant group in eastern Syria, Kurdish activists reported.

SDF troops, led by Kurdish fighters, have been holding on the outskirts of ISIS territory for the last 10 days as more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the besieged enclave, the SDF said.

SDF official Mustafa Bali, speaking to Reuters, described the assault as "the last battle".

President Donald Trump said on February 8 that US diplomats had a "very productive meeting" with North Korean officials, and announced that his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam's capital of Hanoi.

In recent months, the SDF forces have launched concentrated efforts, backed by airstrikes by the US-led coalition to rout the remaining fighters from the final patch of territory in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Speaking at the State Department on Wednesday, February 6, Trump said that US-led troops and their Kurdish allies should formally announce the end of the "caliphate" some time next week.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation's foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources.

The statement gave no indication of how long it could take to capture Baghouz, but President Donald Trump said last week he had been told that the full territorial conquest of the Islamic State could be completed in the coming week.

More than 37,000 people, mostly wives and children of jihadist fighters, have fled IS territory since the SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, intensified its offensive in December, according to the Observatory.

The United States said on January 29 that Islamic State was expected to lose the final chunk of territory within a couple of weeks.

The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw all of its forces from Syria by the end of April, the Wall Street Journal has reported on February 7.

At least 48 suspected IS members were among them, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian Democratic Forces announce 'final battle' against Islamic State