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US-backed forces retake ISIS hub in east Syria: monitor

In this file photo taken on September 11, 2018, members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in the town of Shadadi, about 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh, on September 11, 2018. (File/AFP)
Kurdish-dominated forces backed by air strikes by a US-led coalition retook full control of a key militant hub in eastern Syria on Friday, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces secured Hajjin, the largest settlement in what is the last pocket of territory controlled by the ISIS group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“After a week of heavy fighting and air strikes, the SDF were able to kick ISIS out of Hajjin,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organization, said referring to ISIS.

The operation was completed at dawn, he said, a day after SDF forces fanned out across the large village in the Euphrates valley.

The last ISIS fighters were confined to a network of tunnels and the edges of Hajjin, which lies in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border with Iraq.

The area held by ISIS is sometimes referred to as the “Hajjin pocket,” the last rump of a once-sprawling “caliphate” the group proclaimed in 2014 over swathes of Syria and Iraq.

According to Abdel Rahman, a total of 17,000 fighters from he Kurdish-Arab SDF alliance are involved in the operation to flush ISIS out of its last bastion.