Fox News reported on Thursday that the final Islamic State stronghold in Syria, the village of Baghouz, has been liberated by the Kurdish-led, U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces. The report has not been officially confirmed as of Thursday evening, but if Fox’s information is solid, the ISIS “caliphate” has been destroyed.
Fox News mentioned Syrian media reports about the action in Baghouz, but its Thursday exclusive was based primarily on observations from its own team on the ground in Syria:
It’s the first time since we’ve been here in Syria for five days that the bombs have stopped dropping and the gunfire has disappeared. We have witnessed the end of the caliphate – the brutal empire that once ruled over 8 million people – is gone.
Troops here are now bringing down the black flags of ISIS. The flags no longer fly over the town, instilling fear.
The last five days, Fox News has witnessed the last major offensive up close -– with U.S.-backed SDF forces attacking ISIS from three sides, pushing the fighters back, house to house, then tent to tent, against the Euphrates River.
Inside Baghouz, it’s easy to see how they hid for so long – not just in tunnels but trenches and hundreds of cubby holes covered by tarpaulins, which blend in perfectly to the dirt.
In the end, the majority surrendered. In fact, since the start of the year about 60,000 have dripped into the desert, and most are now held in camps.
Fox quoted statements of gratitude from SDF fighters for U.S. support in the grueling campaign to wipe out the last ISIS redoubts and said the already staggering destruction would have been far worse if American forces had not assisted in routing the entrenched ISIS fighters. The SDF is now requesting assistance with the large number of prisoners taken during the battle.
Unfortunately, those prisoners do not include the top ISIS leaders, who appear to have abandoned their forces and fled. Reports surfaced in February of demoralized ISIS fighters complaining that “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was nowhere to be found when the final battle was joined. In fact, there were reports the terrorist leader barely survived a coup attempt from his own troops in January and went into hiding.
President Donald Trump predicted on Wednesday morning that the last Islamic State stronghold would be “gone by tonight.”
According to Reuters on Thursday evening, the SDF is sweeping the Baghouz area for the last few ISIS holdouts, booby traps, and landmines, and will formally announce the defeat of the Islamic State when the mop-up operation is complete.