3000 members of Islamic state surrender to Kurd fighters in Syria

‘The ISIS threat will remain,’ John Bolton says

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the battle was as good as over and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS) faced imminent defeat.

A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all that remains of a once-sprawling ISIS "caliphate" declared in 2014 across large swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The SDF has laid siege to Baghouz for weeks but has repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of ISIS fighters, to leave.

Air strikes and shelling have since pummelled Baghouz three nights in a row, killing scores of fighters and prompting hundreds of jihadists and their relatives to surrender.

Bali said SDF forces had bombarded Baghouz heavily overnight before engaging in direct clashes with IS fighters in the pre-dawn hours.

The outpouring has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Kurdish-run camps, which are struggling to accommodate the mass influx of women and children.

SDF Media Office head Mustafa Bali tweeted that his US-led global coalition-backed forces were continuing their "final push" against ISIS late on Tuesday and the extremists were surrendering "en masse".

Sherif, the unit commander, said his force was preparing to storm the jihadist redoubt.

Jihadists "launched two counterattacks today - one in the morning and another in the afternoon", an SDF official told AFP.

The jihadists, waging a last-ditch battle in Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, dispatched suicide bombers against SDF fighters, who thwarted the attacks, the USA -backed force said.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said the heavy clashes led to the death of 38 militants including eight suicide bombers while four SDF fighters were killed.

"The importance of the territorial caliphate goes to an ideological point of ISIS itself, namely that they were a caliphate because under their view of what a caliphate is, you have to control a territory", Bolton said.

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Bali also said coalition air raids "led to the destruction of a number of military vehicles, defensive fortifications, ammunition depots, and a command post".

He said US-backed forces clashed with jihadists on several fronts, killing almost 40 IS fighters.

Since December, nearly 59,000 people have left the last ISIS redoubt, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around a tenth of them suspected jihadist fighters.

Pence, meanwhile, said in a speech at the State Department in January that "the caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated".

The UN's food agency said it is concerned about their well-being.

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday 106 people, mainly infants, have died since December on the journey to al-Hol, which takes at least six hours.

The jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in SDF-held territory in recent months, and the U.S. military has warned of the need to maintain a "vigilant offensive".

At the height of its brutal rule, IS controlled a stretch of land in Syria and Iraq the size of UK.

The total capture of the Baghouz camp by the SDF would mark the end of the cross-border "caliphate" it proclaimed 5 years ago.

Around 2,000 members of the bloodthirsty terror have now surrendered after being flushed out of their hideouts in the war-ravaged town of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

The group released a video late Monday allegedly showing jihadists in Baghouz, quietly defiant in the face of the advancing SDF.

Less than two weeks ago, Trump declared that "100%" of the ISIS caliphate was liberated, surprising USA officials and regional allies leading the fight who said the battle isn't over.



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