Syrian troops encircle last Islamic State-held town
Nov 09 2017
At the height of its power in 2015, it ruled an expanse of Iraq and Syria, eradicating the border, printing money, imposing draconian laws and plotting attacks across the world.
Despite its losses, Islamic State still has a territorial presence in Libya and elsewhere, and many governments expect it to remain a threat even after it loses the caliphate it declared from Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.
On Wednesday, after a months-long advance through central and eastern Syria, the Syrian army and allied Shi'ite militias encircled and attacked Albu Kamal.
Baghdadi took control of what was then known as the Islamic State of Iraq in 2010 after the death of its former leader.
Syrian troops, fighting alongside various pro-government and Iran-backed militias, have claimed a series of major victories in a rapidly closing pocket that comprises ISIS's final stretch of territory in the Middle East.
Amid lightning gains that saw the group control almost half of Iraq and Syria at its height in 2014, Baghdadi beckoned Muslims from around the world to join his militant cause during a speech from the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, his first and only known public appearance as ISIS chief.
Syrian state media have not yet confirmed the capture of Albu Kamal.
In areas controlled by the SDF in northern Syria, Kurdish-led groups have established autonomy, announcing elections and setting internal policies.
Iraqi forces backed by the US -led coalition drove IS from Qaim and surrounding areas last week, in what coalition officials said marked the end of the conventional war against the extremist group in Iraq. Washington has not spelled out how its military support for the SDF would evolve after Islamic State's defeat.
Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces also took part in the operation, close to the border between the two countries.
As ISIS is destroyed in Iraq, Croft said Iraqi security forces will not cross the border into Syria to pursue them.