Islamic State no longer holds any territory in Syria, a White House spokeswoman said on Friday after Washington’s local ally in Syria reported that fighting with the jihadists continued at the site of their last enclave.
U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed President Donald Trump as he was traveling to Florida on Air Force One, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has yet to announce a final territorial defeat of Islamic State in its last enclave in Baghouz and said on Friday that though it has captured most of the area, there are still pockets of jihadist fighters.
A Reuters journalist at Baghouz heard air strikes there on Friday afternoon and saw smoke rising.
The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat Islamic State in Baghouz in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, told Reuters SDF fighters had captured most of the Baghouz area and clashed overnight with IS militants in more than two positions where they were refusing to surrender.
The jihadists were holed up in what appeared to be caves in a rocky shelf overlooking Baghouz, and in trenches by the nearby Euphrates River, he said. “Our forces are trying to force them to surrender, but so far the clashes are continuing.”
Though the defeat of Islamic State at Baghouz ends its grip over populated territory, the group remains a threat, with fighters operating in remote territory elsewhere and capable of mounting insurgent attacks.