ISIL territory '100 percent eliminated' in Syria: White House
The US Defense Department said on Friday that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) no longer holds any territory in Syria, according to a White House spokeswoman.
US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed President Donald Trump as he was travelling to Florida on Air Force One, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
She said that the armed group’s territory had been “100 percent eliminated”. She directed other questions regarding the announcement to the Pentagon.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has not commented on the White House’s announcement.
Earlier on Friday, the SDF said it had captured most of ISIL’s last enclave in Baghouz, but there were still pockets of ISIL fighters.
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The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat ISIL in Baghouz in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border. It was all that remained of the territory the armed group ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.
A Reuters journalist in Baghouz heard air strikes there on Friday afternoon and saw smoke rising.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, DC, said that difficulty, however, is that “ISIL hasn’t gone away and everyone knows that”.
“Trump will undoubtedly get the victory that he wanted … but the group hasn’t gone away,” Fisher said.
Shortly after Sanders made the comments to reporters, Trump tweeted, “ISIS uses the internet better than almost anyone, but for all of those susceptible to ISIS propaganda, they are now being beaten badly at every level.”