IS Militants Recapture Syrian Town Near Iraqi Border

Asmaa Waguih  AP

Islamic State group jihadists have recaptured almost all of Albu Kamal, putting up a fierce fightback for what had been the last significant Syrian town under their control, a monitor said Saturday.

While ISIS forces have mostly abandoned towns and cities in favor of fleeing into the desert to return to insurgency, they appear to want to keep Abu Kamal contested for now, and there are even reports from Hezbollah that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be in the area.

The military unit did not say what had happened to Baghdadi, give further details or identify its sources.

Iraqi troops on Saturday launched an assault to control Rawa, the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic State (IS), which aims to put an end to the group's self-proclaimed caliphate in the country.

Media reports coming out of Syria on Saturday said that the terror group has managed to retake some parts of al-Bukamal, two days after the Syrian army announced its full liberation.

IS has suffered a string of defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneous offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militias as well as USA -backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.

On Saturday, Abdel Rahman said Albu Kamal was being pummelled by air strikes, but he could not specify whether they were Iraqi or Russian raids.

The Observatory also reported 26 civilians killed, including nine children, since Friday night in artillery fire by government forces and Russian air strikes that hit villages and camps for those displaced by the fighting in Albu Kamal.

The operation's commander, General Abdelamir Yarallah, said his forces captured Rumana and 10 other villages as they worked their way towards the Euphrates Valley town of Rawa, the last Iraqi town still held by IS.

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