11/04/2017, 15.37
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As Syrian army retakes Deir al-Zor, the Islamic State finds itself in a corner

Islamic State's territory is now reduced to a city in Syria and a village in Iraq. But even without a land base, it remains dangerous as its members could reorganise themselves into an insurgency.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The so-called Islamic State (IS) group is now reduced to a single Syrian border town, a village on a bank of the Euphrates in Iraq and some patches of nearby desert. Despite its latest defeats in Syria and Iraq, there are fears the group will reconstitute as a guerrilla force.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Abadi yesterday announced that government forces re-captured al-Qaim.

On the Syrian side, government forces declared victory in Deir al-Zor, the last major city in the country’s eastern desert where the militants still had a presence. The city is also Syria’s main oil-producing area.

Fighting for the city had forced some 350,000 civilians in Deir al-Zor province to flee. In the city itself, engineering units are now searching streets and buildings for mines and booby traps left behind by IS fighters.

IS had designated the area on both sides of the border as its "Euphrates Province" and used it to transfer fighters, weapons and goods between Iraq and Syria.

The cross-border province was also a symbol of the jihadists' intention to wipe out the region's borders and lay to rest the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, with which Great Britain and France had carved up the Middle East in their respective areas of influence.

At present, IS controls the village of Rawa, on the Iraqi side of the Euphrates River, and the Syrian city of Albu Kamal. Syrian forces are now about 40 kilometres from the latter, getting ready for the final push.

Officials from both countries confirm that IS’s defeat could be easily achieved. IS has now been driven out from about 95 per cent of the land it once held in Iraq and more than 4.4 million Iraqis have been freed from its rule.

However, the group is not yet beaten. Now the danger is that its fighters might morph into an insurgent organisation that could launch attacks despite its lack of a territory.

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