Skip to main content

This frame grab from video provided on Feb. 12, 2019, by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, shows smoke rising from a shell that targeted Islamic State group militants, in the village of Baghouz, Deir El-Zour, eastern Syria.

The Associated Press

Kurdish-led fighters battling to capture Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Syria are making “slow and methodical” progress, the U.S.-led coalition backing them said on Tuesday.

“The enemy is fully entrenched and ISIS fighters continue to conduct counter attacks,” coalition spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan said in an e-mail, adding it was “too early for a timetable” on when the operation may end.

Baghouz, a village on the east bank of the Euphrates at Syria’s border with Iraq, is Islamic State’s last territorial foothold in the U.S.-led coalition’s area of operations.

Story continues below advertisement

However, the jihadis still hold land in central Syria in a remote desert area otherwise controlled by the government. In places it lost in Syria and Iraq, IS was able to go to ground and has carried out deadly guerrilla attacks.

Even after Baghouz is captured, there will have to be clearing operations to rid the village of explosive booby traps left by Islamic State to kill civilians, Col. Ryan said.

The battle is being waged by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, which has seized about a quarter of the country, mostly through the U.S.-backed offensive against IS.

On Monday, columns of white smoke from coalition air strikes were visible and trucks crammed with fleeing civilians drove along a dusty track out of the enclave, a witness said.

Coalition air power, crucial to the SDF’s advances, has levelled entire districts of towns and cities in the fight against IS, although it says it takes care to avoid hitting civilians.

On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 70 civilians had been killed and wounded by air strikes that it said struck a camp for civilians in Baghouz, and that 16 civilians were killed in strikes overnight.

In letters to the United Nations, Syria’s Foreign Ministry condemned U.S.-led strikes that it said killed 16 civilians in a camp in Baghouz including women and children.

Story continues below advertisement

“Syria calls on the [UN] Security Council again to stop these crimes … and end the aggressive, illegitimate presence of American and other foreign forces,” the ministry said.

Col. Ryan said the coalition was aware of the report and was looking into it. “The coalition continues to strike at ISIS targets whenever available,” he said.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Monday many civilians remained in Baghouz, compelling the fighters to proceed cautiously. The SDF believes 400 to 600 jihadis may still be dug in there.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies