ISIL counter-attacks out of final Syria enclave fall short: SDF
CGTN

ISIL launched two counter-attacks on U.S.-backed fighters besieging their last pocket of territory in eastern Syria on Wednesday but were beaten back without any progress, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said.

The jihadists, waging a last-ditch battle in Baghouz dispatched suicide bombers against SDF fighters, who thwarted the attacks, the U.S.-backed force said.

ISIL launched the second counter-attack in the afternoon, "(taking) advantage of smoke and dust over Baghouz", the SDF media office said. "Fighting is still continuing. (ISIL) made no progress so far and were stopped."

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.

A fighter with the Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a U.S.-made Humvee in the town of Baghouz, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo

A fighter with the Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a U.S.-made Humvee in the town of Baghouz, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo

Black smoke mushroomed high over Baghouz as the sounds of gunfire, explosions and planes could be heard in a battle that the SDF has said is as good as over.

In parts of Baghouz already under SDF control, dirt roads were littered with the scorched remains of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Many houses had been completely flattened and roads had been cratered by missile strikes.

ISIL's black flag could still be seen painted on walls, while others had been emblazoned with freshly daubed SDF slogans and the words "Down with Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the jihadists)".

ISIL fighters and their families walk as they surrendered in the village of Baghouz, eastern Syria, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

ISIL fighters and their families walk as they surrendered in the village of Baghouz, eastern Syria, March 12, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

No ISIL leaders are believed to be in Baghouz, according to a U.S. defense official. U.S. government experts strongly believe the claimed ISIL chief Baghdadi is alive and possibly hiding in Iraq.

The group is still assessed to remain a potent security threat operating in remote territory in both Syria and Iraq.

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

The U.S.-led aerial coalition campaign to end the militants' last territorial enclave has exacted a heavy human toll with hundreds of casualties among civilians from intense aerial bombardment that has razed many villages to the ground, former residents and aid workers say.

Source(s): Reuters