Iraqi Forces Enter al-Qaim in 'Last Big Fight' against ISIS

Deir al-Zour: Syrian army 'takes last IS stronghold'

"Army troops backed by Hashd al-Shaabi fighters and Arab tribal volunteers have completely liberated Al-Qaim's city center", Anadolu news agency quoted Colonel Walid al-Duleimi as saying. "The Iraqi national flag has been raised over the city's local government headquarters", he said.

"The defeat of Daesh today is the harshest and most important defeat since the start of the confrontation, as Daesh has actually ended in Iraq after being defeated in the most important point (al-Qaim) that Daesh originally spread from towards the northern and western cities like Mosul and Ramadi in the summer of 2014", Muhandis said.

"ISIS members have to choose between death and surrender", Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement announcing the offensive last week.

Even as the Syrian government assault was nearing completion, Iraqi forces entered Al-Qaim yesterday, military commanders said, unleashing a barrage of artillery fire along with Iraqi and US-led coalition air strikes. The Iraqis, with the support of the global coalition, have now liberated almost all of the territory once held by ISIS in Iraq, they said.

Syrian government forces and their pro-government allies first broke the militant group's siege of their part of the city in September in a Russian-backed offensive, and have been advancing against IS positions since then.

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He estimated there were 1,500-2,500 fighters left in al-Qaim and 2,000-3,000 in Albu Kamal.

ISIS is also under pressure from separate offensives by Syrian regime and US-backed forces in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor that lies on the other side of the border.

A US-led global coalition has also been bombing ISIS and supporting ground allies on both sides of the frontier said the militant group now has a few thousand fighters left, mainly holed up at the border in Iraq's al-Qaim and its sister town of Albu Kamal on the Syrian side.

The 53-page report, produced by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, could be used for war crimes prosecutions.

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