DEIR EZZOR, Syria, March 23, (RTRS): US-backed forces proclaimed the capture of Islamic State’s last territory in Syria on Saturday, eliminating its rule over a self-proclaimed “caliphate”, but the jihadist group remains a threat from sleeper cells around the world. Originally an offshoot of al- Qaeda, IS or the DAESH in Arabic, took large swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014, creating a theocracy known for beheadings and attacks by supporters in the West – but it was slowly beaten back to the village of Baghouz.
“We announce today the destruction of the so-called Islamic State organisation and the end of its ground control in its last pocket in Baghouz,” Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) general commander Mazloum Abdi told a victory ceremony. SDF fighters, who besieged Baghouz for weeks while planes pounded from above, paraded in memory of 11,000 comrades killed in years of fighting against IS.
A band played the American national anthem. Despite the euphoria, some shooting and mortar fire continued on Saturday morning, according to a Reuters journalist at Baghouz. And Abdi warned the campaign against the militant’s more hidden threats must continue.