'Islamic State' defeated in Syria: US-backed Syrian forces

US-backed Kurdish forces say they have liberated the last enclave held by "Islamic State" militants in eastern Syria. But Germany's foreign minister warned the world not to celebrate too soon.

The US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday declared victory against the "Islamic State" (IS), saying they had flushed the jihadists from their last remaining stronghold in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz.

Conflicts | 11.03.2019

The announcement marks the end of the terror group's self-proclaimed caliphate, which at its height in 2014 covered large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Read more'Islamic State' loses significant camp in final holdout territory Baghouz

Victory in Baghouz

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali announced the victory on Twitter:

  • "Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished," he said, referring to IS by its acronym in Arabic.  
  • The SDF declares "total elimination" of the so-called caliphate and "100 percent territorial defeat of ISIS."
  • "On this unique day, we commemorate thousands of martyrs whose efforts made the victory possible."

Read moreOpinion: 'Islamic State' may fall, but will not vanish

Infografik Karte Syrien mit Baghus EN

Celebration and caution

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas praised the international anti-IS coalition and "courageous local partners" for defeating the jihadist group, but said IS remained an "underground threat."

Prime Minister Theresa May said IS' defeat marked "a historic milestone."

French President Emmanuel Macron said France was safer, but warned that "the fight against terrorist groups must continue."

US President Donald Trump hailed the end of the IS caliphate, but promised that the US would remain "vigilant" in fighting the group.

German troops trained local fighters as part of the anti-IS coalition

Read moreAs IS crumbles, Syrian Kurds want Germany to take back foreign fighters

Related Subjects

IS still a threat: Despite the loss of territory, IS is still seen as a major security threat, with offshoots in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Yemen, and supporters in Western countries willing to carry out attacks.

Rise and fall: The militants captured Iraq's Fallujah and Mosul and Syria's Raqqa during a lightning advance in 2014. In 2017, they suffered major defeats and were driven to Baghouz.

Where did IS come from? IS began as a faction within al-Qaida in Iraq but split off after the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.

Read moreNadia Murad: One woman's fight against Islamic State

Brutal caliphate: IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in June 2014. At its height, the group imposed its brutal interpretation of Islamic law on millions of people.

When did the battle begin? SDF forces launched an attack on Baghouz in early March. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of civilians and surrendering fighters fled to escape US-led airstrikes.

What is the SDF? It's a coalition of armed Kurdish groups allied with the US. They captured much of the Syrian territory once held by the extremists, including Raqqa.

Read moreSyria's SDF launches endgame battle against 'Islamic State' 

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where did it come from?

The "Islamic State" (IS) — also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh — is an al-Qaida splinter group with a militant Sunni Islamist ideology. It emerged in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Their goal is to create a worldwide "caliphate." It gained worldwide notoriety in 2014 after a blitzkrieg military campaign that resulted in the capture of Mosul.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where does it operate?

IS is believed to be operational in more than a dozen countries across the world. It controls territories in Iraq and Syria. However, the group has lost much of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria at the height of its expansion in 2014.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Who is fighting back?

The US leads an international coalition of more than 50 countries, including several Arab nations. Russia, Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah, which all support the Syrian government, also fight IS. Regional forces such as the Kurdish peshmerga (above) and US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, fight IS on the ground. The Iraqi army and militia have pushed IS from large parts of the country.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

How does it fund itself?

One of IS' main sources of income has been oil and gas. At one point, it controlled an estimated one-third of Syria's oil production. However, US-led airstrikes deliberately targeted oil resources and the Syrian government as well as US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters have retaken most oil wells. Other means of income include taxes, ransom, selling looted antiquities and extortion.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where does it carry out attacks?

IS has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks across the globe. The militant group has targeted capitals across the EU, including Berlin, Brussels and Paris. IS leaders have encouraged so-called "lone wolf" attacks, whereby individuals who support IS carry out terrorist acts without the direct involvement of the group.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

What other tactics does it use?

The group uses various tactics to expand its power. IS fighters have looted and destroyed historical artifacts in Syria and Iraq in an attempt at "cultural cleansing." The group has also enslaved thousands of women from religious minority groups, including Yazidis. IS also uses a sophisticated social network to distribute propaganda and recruit sympathizers.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

How has it impacted the region?

IS has further exacerbated the ongoing Syrian conflict. Millions of Syrians and Iraqis have fled their homes, many traveling to Europe in pursuit of refuge. Although it has lost all of its strongholds, the militant group has left extraordinary destruction in its wake. Areas affected by the militant group's rule will likely take years to rebuild.

nm/amp (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)