IS resists 'final push' by US-backed force in eastern Syria

IS resists 'final push' by US-backed force in eastern Syria

Four years ago, IS controlled territory the size of Britain and administered millions of people, but the US-led coalition fighting the group says "99.5 percent" of it has been clawed back in successive offensives. It comes after more than 20,000 civilians were allowed to flee the area over the past two weeks, many of them suspected fighters or the wives and children of fighters.

Bali said there could be up to 600 IS fighters still inside the pocket, a lot of them foreigners.

Special Operations forces working alongside the SDF fighters will be particularly keen on establishing whether any key Islamic State leaders are still holed up in Baghouz, including perhaps the Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. U.S.

SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali told AFP on Wednesday that his group is detaining foreign IS fighters on a "daily basis".

Nobody here wants to predict yet when that end will come, but ISIS as a territorial force has entered it's final days.

US, French, British and other forces are also actively looking for wanted IS operatives among those fleeing the combat zone with civilians.

Merkel's remarks at the inauguration of the Berlin headquarters of Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND contradicted statements by U.S. President Donald Trump that the Islamist group has been defeated.

Its deputy commander, Major General Christopher Ghika, described the size of the last ISIS pocket as "now less than 1% of the original caliphate". "Those remaining inside are the most experienced who are defending their last stronghold".

The Britain-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said SDF fighters were advancing "cautiously" due to mines planted by Isis gunmen.

The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the conflict, instead developing semi-autonomous institutions in parts of the country's northeast under their control.

The U.S. -led coalition has said it is not discussing the timeline of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. "It's still fighting. It still has sleeper cells in the areas we've liberated". According to The Wall Street Journal, the military plans to complete the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria by the end of April.