Iraq forces defeat IS jihadists in town of Al-Qaim


The Syrian army announced Friday that it has liberated the long-contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour from the Islamic State group, a largely symbolic victory in the military's fight to capture remaining IS strongholds in the oil-rich province along the border with Iraq.

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

While the city of Deir el-Zour was divided into parts held by the Syrian government and the militants, the United Nations was only occasionally able to deliver helicopter-dropped food aid to besieged residents estimated to number about 200,000.

"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.

Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) fighters fire a cannon against Islamic State militants in Al-Qaim, Iraq November 3, 2017.

Just hours after entering al Qaim, Iraq's security forces retook a border crossing with Syria from the militants, according to the Joint Operations Command.

In Iraq, troops recaptured the town of Qaim across the border from Boukamal, the government said.

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IS, which at its peak controlled territory roughly the size of Britain, has suffered a string of losses in recent months in both Syria and Iraq.

Later, the troops will continue to clear the vast rural areas and desert in north of the Euphrates River.

In October, it lost its one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqa after an assault of more than four months waged by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance.

The US-led coalition has said around 1,500 IS fighters are left in the area, which it expects to be the scene of the "last big fight" against the group in Iraq.

Haider al-Abadi congratulated the army on Friday for seizing the district in such a short time, Efe news reported.

On Friday, four members of the same family were killed in an air strike on an IS-held village south of Albu Kamal, the Observatory said, without identifying the aircraft.