US-backed Syrian fighters push to oust IS

Tens of thousands have fled the besieged Islamic State-held village of Baghouz, Syria.
Tens of thousands have fled the besieged Islamic State-held village of Baghouz, Syria.

US-backed fighters have taken positions in Islamic State's last enclave in eastern Syria after pounding the tiny patch of land by the banks of the Euphrates.

"Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up," Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter.

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind on Sunday during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.

Backed by air power and special forces from a US-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Islamic State from almost the entire north-eastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.

While its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.

The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.

More than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Islamic State supporters including some 5000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.

Australian Associated Press