IS left with just four square-miles of territory in eastern Syria, says SDF leader

IS left with just four square-miles of territory in eastern Syria, says SDF leader
Islamic State group militants are confined to small strip of desert in eastern Syria, a Syrian Democratic Forces commander has said.
2 min read
28 January, 2019
Syrian Arab-Kurdish fighters are poised to take IS' last stronghold in eastern Syria [Getty]

The Islamic State group's once sprawling "caliphate" has been reduced to a four kilometres of territory in the eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia.

The SDF, backed by a US-led coalition, has won most of northern and eastern Syria from IS following a grueling campaign which saw the fall of the group's self-declared capital, Raqqa in 2017.

A senior Kurdish commander said that IS now control just four kilometres of territory in eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border.

"Geographically speaking, there are only four square kilometres left under IS control, stretching from Baghouz to the Iraqi border," SDF commander Heval Roni told AFP.

"There are some high-ranking IS leaders among them... but we don't know who exactly." 

Speculation has mounted on the whereabouts of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with American special forces hunting him down in eastern Syria.

"The information we have is that the US military wants al-Baghdadi alive, which may explain the entry of US special forces into Syrian areas that can be considered military zones, as well as the delay in resolving the entry of Kurdish militias to the remaining villages and small Syrian towns," Ahmad al-Hamdani, an Iraqi security expert told The New Arab.

IS reportedly hold on to just a few farms in the Euphrates Valley area, after the SDF took the group's last village last week.

The group has launched a number of failed but bloody counter-attacks on the Kurdish-Arab force, although they have not managed to break-through the SDF defences.

IS announced the establishment of its self-declared "caliphate" in 2014, following the expansion of the militants in Syria and Iraq.

US-backed campaigns against the jihadi group saw the militants forced to retreat to remote areas, losing their main urban strongholds including Mosul in 2017.