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.
On the tarmac at @PBI_Airport, Pres Trump approached press pool to spotlight the maps showing elimination of ISIS caliphate in Syria (bottom), compared to ISIS territory in 2014 (highlighted in red)(top). Gave maps to the press pool, telling them to "spread it around." pic.twitter.com/ISF7zaSlvl
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 22, 2019
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also told the press that the ISIS defeat was confirmed by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Territory of #ISIS caliphate has been 100 percent eliminated in #Syria, @PressSec told press pool on Air Force One flight, adding @DeptofDefense should have additional information for media while she showed reporters a map of Syria. pic.twitter.com/LUQzsMYNjq
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) March 22, 2019
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.
Chya Farat, commander of Desert Storm Operation: our forces currently engages against ISIS terrorists in several points on the Euphrates river valley, and International Coalition conducts several airstrikes against terrorists targets.@BBCWorld @CNN @skynewsarabia @Reuters0 pic.twitter.com/92wLEDFGa4
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 21, 2019
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.
President Trump shows reporters a map detailing the loss of ISIS territory between the 2016 election and now. He says a small section of remaining territory will be “gone by tonight” https://t.co/H9n7JKbYS7 pic.twitter.com/FNgQcDyHX1
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 20, 2019
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.
A group of suspects believed to be involved in January 16 Manbij bombing that killed several US and SDF servicemen were captured following technical surveillance by our forces. The outcome of the ongoing investigation will be shared at a later time.
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 19, 2019
Bali then shared satellite images with drawn lines showing progress made in the territory.
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 19, 2019
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.