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ISIS caliphate ‘eliminated’ in Syria, White House announces

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-allied Kurdish-led rebel group, patrol through the Islamic State-held village of Baghouz in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. SDF officials have said the extremists are clinging to an area less than a square kilometer in the village of Baghouz and preventing more than 1,000 civilians from leaving the area. (Aboud Hamam/DPA/Zuma Press/TNS)
March 22, 2019

The final ISIS stronghold has been conquered in Syria after they controlled it for four and a half years, according to the White House.

The announcement came from President Donald Trump, who handed out maps to journalists on Friday showing that ISIS territory was completely eradicated.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also told the press that the ISIS defeat was confirmed by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Local Syrian media and Fox News claimed on Thursday that the last small ISIS village had crumbled, but an official statement had not been made by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or other official organizations.

Over the past week, the SDF had secured numerous victories in the Baghouz region while pushing back ISIS, and sources told Fox News exclusively on Thursday that the last small ISIS village had been reclaimed.

SDF forces launched attacks on the last village from three sides, pushing the ISIS terrorists against the Euphrates River.

“Our forces are still conducting combing and search operations and as soon as they are finished we will announce the liberation,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said in a statement to journalists, Newsmax reported.

SDF forces continued scanning and cleaning up the area, including air strikes on areas where few ISIS terrorists had escaped across the river.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump held up a map of Syria in front of reporters at the White House showing a comparison of ISIS-held territory in Syria between the night of the 2016 election versus this week.

“There’s actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight,” he had said Wednesday, of the last ISIS caliphate.

Earlier this week, the SDF confirmed that ISIS had been pushed into a “tiny area.”

#SDF is in control of Daesh encampment area in #Baghouz. This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh. Clashes are continuing as a group of ISIS terrorists who are confined into a tiny area still fight back,” Bali tweeted.

Bali then shared satellite images with drawn lines showing progress made in the territory.

Last month, SDF fighters encroached on the last stronghold, where they came across a mass grave with dozens of beheaded ISIS victims.

The SDF’s efforts have been interrupted periodically for the evacuation efforts of more than 40,000 civilians since December 2018.

The SDF was waiting to evacuate all civilians before making the final push to kill or capture the remaining ISIS fighters.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said the Baghouz province was “more crowded with both civilians and fighters than expected.”

“The overflow during the lull in battle has been difficult for the SDF and they have responded to everything well…,” Ryan added.

Additionally, SDF recently freed 24 of its own fighters that were taken hostage by ISIS during civilian evacuation efforts.