Islamic State's last stronghold captured

  • 24/03/2019

US-backed forces declared military victory over the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria on Saturday after liberating the last pocket of territory held by the militants in the country's east, marking the end of a brutal self-styled caliphate the group carved out in large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

After weeks of heavy fighting, the tent camp where the militants had made their final stand in the village of Baghouz was bombed to shreds.

On Saturday, journalists were taken to the encampment in Baghouz where the group had made its last stand - a wasteland of wrecked vehicles, torn tents and scorched trees. A few bodies could be seen and the faint smell of rotting corpses hung in the air.

Personal belongings and other items including generators, oil barrels, water tanks and satellite dishes were scattered in the dirt. Cars and motorcycles were turned to rusted, twisted heaps of metal.

There were unused rockets, mortars and grenades, as well as a pile of suicide vests.

Amid the empty fox holes and trenches stood a building with a huge yellow Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flag on top.

Ciya Kobani, an SDF commander, announced the end of the operation from the rooftop.

"Daesh on the ground has been finished. We dedicate this victory to all the people of the world", he said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym.

The elimination of the last IS stronghold in Baghouz brings to a close a gruelling final battle that stretched across several weeks and saw thousands of people flee the territory and surrender in desperation, and hundreds killed.

It spells the end of the militants' proto-state, which at its height four years ago was the size of Britain and home to some 8 million people, but the extremist group still maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells across Syria and Iraq.