U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S.-backed forces had dislodged the Islamic State militant group from its last holdout in Syria.
“Here’s ISIS on Election Day. And here’s ISIS right now,” Trump said, using the acronym for the group as he displayed a before-and-after map to reporters, with the “before” portion full of red dots and the “after” map empty.
“You guys can have the map. Congratulations,” Trump said. “I think it’s about time.”
The president has previously displayed a map illustrating the diminution of IS.
Trump has said that IS no longer holds territory several times over the past few weeks. But U.S. officials told Reuters that fighting still continued late into Thursday between U.S.-backed forces and IS militants in the last remaining territory it holds.
Earlier on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters IS no longer held any territory in Syria and that U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had briefed the president on the milestone as he was travelling to Florida on Air Force One.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled IS militants holed up in the Baghouz area overnight, supported by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, the SDF said, seeking to defeat the last pockets of jihadist resistance.
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The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat IS in the Baghouz enclave in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.
While the U.S.-backed SDF has captured most of the area, Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, told Reuters SDF fighters were clashing late on Thursday with IS militants in more than two positions where they were refusing to surrender.