Reuters BEIRUT (Reuters) — Syria’s Army declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group on Thursday, saying its capture of the jihadists’ last town in the country marked the collapse of their three-year, hard-line reign in the region.
The army and its allies are still fighting ISIL in desert areas near Albu Kamal, the last town the militant group had held in Syria, near the border with Iraq, the army said.
But the capture of the town ends ISIL’s era of territorial rule over the so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across Iraq and Syria and in which millions suffered under its hard-line, repressive strictures.
Yet after ferocious defensive battles in its most important cities this year, where its fighters bled for every house and street, its final collapse has come with lightning speed.
Instead of a battle to the death as they mounted a last stand in the Euphrates Valley towns and villages near the border between Iraq and Syria, many fighters surrendered or fled.
“There’s some fighters left but they’re few. Small numbers is all I can say,” said a Syrian Army commander of the remaining militants near Albu Kamal. “Some were killed and some ran away. They went towards eastern or northern villages.”
In Albu Kamal, the jihadists had fought fiercely, said a commander in the pro-Syrian government military alliance. But it was captured the same day the assault began.