A United States-backed Kurdish coalition has captured the last town held by fighters from ISIL in Syria‘s eastern Deir Az Zor province.
On Friday, an unnamed military source and a war monitor said Hajin was retaken by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish as well as Arab and Assyrian fighters, in the early hours of the morning.
“After a week of heavy fighting and air strikes, the SDF were able to kick IS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, or ISIS) out of Hajin,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
Europe-based activist Omar Abu Layla of the DeirEzzor 24 monitoring group, confirmed that the remaining enclave was taken, adding that some ISIL fighters were still holed up in small pockets on the edge of the town.
On Thursday, the last ISIL fighters were confined to a network of tunnels and the edges of Hajin, about 30km from the border with Iraq.
The Kurdish-led Syrian fighters have been fighting to take Hajin and nearby villages in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Az Zor since September 10.
Over the past weeks, the offensive intensified with the arrival of reinforcements from northern Syria.
ISIL fighters have been blending in with the civilian population, making identifying the group’s members difficult.
Despite the fact that ISIL seemed defeated militarily, it had powerful sleeper cells, which helped it to forestall the coalition movements by strewing mines in trees, on roads, in fridges, inside toys, and under blankets.
The group still holds some villages near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
There are more than 255,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Deir Az Zor living outside the area, under the control of the Syrian army.
US President Donald Trump this week predicted the group would be fully defeated within a month.
“We’ve done a very, very major job on ISIS,” he said on Tuesday.
“There are very few of them left in that area of the world. And within another 30 days, there won’t be any of them left,” he added.
ISIL took control of the oil-rich province in 2014 before the main city was retaken by Syrian forces with help from the SDF last year.
Since, it has controlled approximately five percent of Syria, but remains in control of pockets in the country’s vast Badia desert.