Fighters form the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces prepare for the battle with ISIS
British SAS officers working with US counterparts have under-pinned crushing pincer movements by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which have ruthlessly and methodically reduced ISIS fighter numbers to just 600. This last 600 are expected to be annihilated today in a last push to eradicate ISIS, and the evils the movement has wrought on huge swathes of the Middle East, from Syria. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned despite the territorial victory ISIS militants could still resort to lone-wolf terror tactics.
A female SDF fighter keeps watch as civilians flee from Baghuz on Tuesday
But in Syria thousands of ISIS fighters have run for their lives – many attempting to find their way back to home countries including Britain and France.
Many have left their families to starve and perish.
Malnutrition, sickness and exposure: common causes of death among the children of ISIS fighters. More are likely to die in today’s final battle, which began on Saturday night.
Iman Abbas, an Iraqi woman in her fifties whose four ISIS-member sons have been killed said: “Our men are dead. We are exhausted and reduced, with nothing left but our lives.”
Families flee Baghuz as ISIS prepares for its final battle
According to US military reconnaissance ISIS terrorists have been cornered in their last stronghold in the Syrian desert as Western backed troops close in for the final bloody battle.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the UK and US, is preparing for the culmination of a four-and-a-half-year fight to defeat the militants. Insiders predict a victory could come as early as this week.
The estimated 600 jihadists are holed up in Baghuz, 300 miles from Mosul, where Islamic State’s caliphate was proclaimed by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014.
In what would once have been a chilling speech in the Great Nouri mosque Mr al-Baghdadi called for Muslims around the world to obey him as the head of the decimated group.
An SDF fighter helps women and childen flee Baghuz
Whether he will see the day out is unknown as Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition calmly explained the Islamic terror group’s futile position.
He said: “The enemy is fully entrenched and Isil fighters continue to conduct counter attacks.”
While he said it was “too early for a timetable” on when the terrorists would be completely wiped out, local commanders said it could happen as soon as Wednesday.
The physical loss for the group comes as the foreign secretary warned the international community not “mistake territorial defeat for final defeat”.
SDF fighters prepare for the battle to oust ISIS from Baghuz in Syria
Jeremy Hunt said: “Military action by many nations, including the UK, has broken Daesh’s grip on thousands of square miles of Syria and Iraq – and we can draw encouragement from that success at the same time as we salute the extraordinary courage of the coalition of armed forces who made it possible.
“Yet as we drive Daesh out of territorial strongholds we are seeing its operatives turning to guerrilla tactics and forming more conventional terrorist networks. So we must press on with the military campaign.”
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 70 civilians had been killed or injured in air strikes in recent days as the battle reaches its final stages.
At its peak, ISIS held land covering the size of Britain and governed more than eight million people in Syria and Iraq.
Children gather in a truck as they flee ISIS in Baghuz
In December, US President Donald Trump sent shockwaves around the world when he announced that American troops fighting ISIS would withdraw from Syria, saying they had “beaten them badly”.
The controversial move prompted secretary of defence James Mattis to resign in protest over Mr Trump’s decision to bring 2,000 soldiers home – but the president later claimed he forced Mr Mattis from office.
More than 60 countries are involved in the coalition to defeat the terrorists which has left more than 20,000 civilians dead.
Since ISIS surged to power in July 2014, the Iraqi security forces are said to have lost 30,000 soldiers while the SDF is thought to have lost 10,000 men.
Children fleeing ISIS look on as they prepare to be evacuated
Lorenzo Meloni, an Italian freelance photographer who has spent the last few weeks embedded with the SDF, said ISIS, also known as Daesh, is mounting suicide attacks as it scrambles to survive.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “Daesh is not giving up easy.
“They steak around behind the SDF line to carry out suicide attacks from within. They have been 10 today alone.
“All this in just 800 metres.”