Damascus: The Islamic State (ISIS) has been reduced to just 700 square metres in Syria, as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a major offensive last week to eliminate the terror outfit from the war-torn country, a top commander overseeing the operations said on Saturday.
The offensive is currently taking place in Baghouz Al-Fawqani town located in eastern Syria, said Commander Chia Kobani, head of operations for the SDF, CNN reported.
Kobani said that the SDF fighters have slowed down their advance in order to avoid harming thousands of civilians who are being held by the ISIS as human shields, although the US-backed forces have encircled the terror group’s last stronghold.
The commander underlined that the SDF is taking precautionary steps to free prisoners held by the ISIS, adding that 10 of them have been liberated in recent days.
“Some may be surprised that Baghouz has not yet fallen. But the firing has stopped. The area is within range of our fire. But we are moving cautiously because there are thousands of civilians being held as human shields,” Kobani was quoted by CNN as saying.
“In the coming few days, very shortly, we will broadcast the good news to the world, to all the people of the region, the Kurds, the Arabs, the Assyrians, all the people of the region, of the military end of the ISIS terrorist group,” he added.
Kobani put forth that the SDF’s efforts would not conclude with the removal of ISIS’ presence “on the ground.”
“We will move to the next stage to the stage of combating ISIS and its sleeper cells and its remnants in the area in order to secure the safety of this region and the lives of people,” he said.
Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011. The grim situation was further aggravated with the establishment of ISIS in Syria and Iraq in 2014, when its de facto leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate”.
At its peak, the terror outfit controlled huge parts of Iraq and Syria with a population of over 10 million people. However, since 2017, the group has been losing hold on major territories in both countries to US-backed military forces.