United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced on Saturday that the Islamic State has finally been defeated after five years of fighting, Reuters reported. The SDF had been battling Islamic State for weeks at Baghouz in eastern Syria. On Saturday, it claimed that it had captured this last remaining stronghold of the IS, ending a long battle against the Islamist terrorist group that had proclaimed its own quasi statehood in large portions of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The US Defense Department had first made the claim that IS was “100% eliminated” in Syria on Friday, a claim that SDF has now confirmed. In the past two months, the Syrian Democratic Forces claimed that more than 60,000 people living in IS-controlled Baghouz had left the region, escaping SDF bombardment and extreme food shortage. More than half of them are believed to be civilians.
European governments are currently grappling with the problem of dealing with “IS brides”, women who had left their countries to marry IS fighters and join the movement. Some of these women have appealed for public sympathy after leaving IS camps.
Islamic State began as an offshoot of the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, but drew global attention in 2014 when it captured the Iraqi city of Mosul and drove out Iraqi government forces from key parts of the country. The militant group expanded rapidly into Syria, which was in the throes of its own civil war, and controlled 88,000 square kilometres of land in the two countries when it was at its strongest.
Islamic State’s rule in this “caliphite” was marked by killings of minority groups, journalists and hostages, public sale of women as “sex slaves” and violent punishments for minor crimes. It took more than five years and the combined effort of several local and international forces to bring about Saturday’s final defeat over IS.
The death toll in the war against IS is not certain, but in December 2017, the Associated Press estimated that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians had been killed in the war up till then – a figure at least 10 times higher than the official estimates of the time.
Despite the recapture of IS territories, the Islamic State remains a global security threat, BBC reported on Saturday. IS members continue to have a presence in the middle-east region and the group has affiliates in countries such as Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Philippines. IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still believed to be in Iraq.