Early celebrations as war on IS holdout wraps up | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 21, 2019

Early celebrations as war on IS holdout wraps up

Their battle against the last jihadists holding out in the besieged Syrian village of Baghouz hasn't quite ended but Kurdish-led fighters have already started celebrating.

When they returned from the front on Tuesday, they put the lamb skewers on the grill and broke into dance as the radio of their battered truck sputtered a Kurdish tune.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) delivered the killer blow to the last vestige of the Islamic State group's "caliphate" this week and the end of the bruising six-month-old operation is now within touching distance.

With backing from the US-led coalition's warplanes, they forced holdout jihadists from their main encampment and into a few hectares (couple of acres) of farmland by the Euphrates River.

The prospect of an imminent victory announcement combined with early leave for the Kurds' Nowruz New Year holiday drew dozens of smiling fighters to a base on the edge of Baghouz.

The front porch of a plush villa the SDF turned into a temporary military headquarters is littered with the duffle bags, ammo belts and body armour the fighters discarded to join the impromptu party.

One fighter remained on the roof, on barbecue duty, while the others formed a circle to start a "dabke" folk dance.

"It's a day of celebration, the nightmare is over," said Majid Hejjo, a 23-year-old SDF fighter still wearing his fatigues and a khaki cap.

An unknown number of diehard jihadists are still refusing to surrender and dodging SDF fire in their hideouts along the reedy banks of the Euphrates.

Syrian and Iraqi government forces and their allies are deployed on the other side of the river and the border, making any escape impossible.

Although IS has already started regrouping in some of its desert and mountain hideouts in the region, the fall of Baghouz will mark the end of the group's territorial control.

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