Iraqi forces enter al-Qaim, last ISIS bastion in Iraq

Iraqi forces enter al-Qaim, last ISIS bastion in Iraq

Iraqi forces enter al-Qaim, last ISIS bastion in Iraq

"ISIS members have to choose between death and surrender", Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement announcing the offensive last week.

Assad's forces and their allies punched their way into the city in September, breaking a almost three-year siege on the handful of neighborhoods that had remained under government control since the militants swept across large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Al-Zawbaei went on to point out that Iraqi ground forces were receiving air support from USA -led coalition warplanes, which, he said, had succeeded in destroying "many" ISIS sites in western Anbar.

Home to around 150,000 people, it is the last Iraqi remnant of ISIS.

"Army troops backed by Hashd al-Shaabi fighters and Arab tribal volunteers have completely liberated Al-Qaim's city center", Anadolu news agency quoted Colonel Walid al-Duleimi as saying. "The Iraqi national flag has been raised over the city's local government headquarters", he said.

He estimated that there were 1,500 to 2,500 fighters left in Al-Qaim and 2,000 to 3,000 in Al-Bukamal. Syrian forces entered Deir Ezzor city in September, breaking an ISIS siege of almost three years.

"We do expect them now to try to flee, but we are cognisant of that and will do all we can to annihilate IS leaders", coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. The battle has been ferocious, with heavy Russian air strikes and Syrian artillery fire leaving much of the city in ruins.

Iraqi forces on Friday entered Al-Qaim, the main town in ISIS' last bastion in the country, military commanders said.

Deir el-Zour had been divided into a government-held and an IS-held part for almost three years.

Iraqi forces had surrounded the last of the ISIS fighters in nearby towns Rawa and Romana, as well as surrounding areas north of the Euphrates River on Qaim's outskirts, Rasoul said.

Related news