Iraqi forces gain ground in last IS urban stronghold near Syrian border

Remnants of ISIS driven across Euphrates

Iraqi forces gain ground in last IS urban stronghold near Syrian border

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. "Our armed forces units, in cooperation with allied and auxiliary forces, have liberated the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province", a statement carried by the official SANA news agency said. A senior Iraqi army commander told AFP that his forces shot dead four IS members who had tried to cross into Iraq, where the group holds the small town of Rawa, near the border.

Following a large-scale tactical retreat by the Islamic State on Thursday, the Kurdish-led "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF) seized over 20 villages on either side of the Khabur River in a region roughly 80 kilometers northeast of Deir Ezzor City.

The Euphrates Valley town of Rawa and nearby villages were bypassed by government troops and allied militia when they retook the town of Al Qaim on the Syrian border last week.

The Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Manar television network reported on Wednesday that Syrian army soldiers, backed by pro-government fighters from popular defense groups, had entered Boukamal.

Last week, Iraqi forces controlled the larger town of al-Qaim in what the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi labeled "record time", leaving a few small pockets in the hands of the IS.

Meanwhile, Al-Bukamal, just across the Syrian border, reportedly fell back to IS on November 11, two Syrian opposition activists said.

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