DAMASCUS – A United States-backed Syrian militia announced on Tuesday it had captured a camp from the Islamic State terror group in eastern Syria, leaving the organization’s remaining territory in the war-torn country further weakened.
Last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, an ethnically-mixed militia led by Kurds, resumed their final offensive to liberate the village of Baghuz after evacuating thousands of civilians.
“SDF is in control of Daesh encampment area in Baghuz,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali wrote on Twitter, using the Arabic acronym for the IS.
“This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh,” he said.
Bali added that the SDF had managed to arrest “157 experienced terrorists, mostly from foreign nationalities,” giving no further details.
On Feb. 9, the SDF announced the start of a campaign against besieged IS militants in Baghuz, the only area still under the radical group’s control in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, near the Iraqi border.
Over 60,000 people, the majority of whom are civilians, have been evacuated from Baghuz since January, in addition to the thousands of militants and people believed to be their families who have surrendered to the SDF.
The US-allied fighters have been carrying out offensives against IS-held areas in Syria and have conquered most of the radicals’ bastions in Deir al-Zour during the past months.
At the height of the terror organization’s power in late 2014 and early 2015, it controlled a vast swathe of territory that stretched from the outskirts of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, to central Syria, including the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa.
In December, US President Donald Trump surprised allies when he announced the pullout of 2,000 US troops from Syria but has not set a specific date for it yet, a move that led to the resignation of US Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump tweeted.
His decision drew criticism from the Kurdish militia, as there were fears Turkey could launch an offensive against the SDF, led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey considers the YPG as a part of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).