DAMASCUS, Syria — U.S.-allied Syrian fighters have declared the defeat of the Islamic State by seizing the extremist militant group’s last stronghold in eastern Syria after months of fighting.

“We stand here today to declare the physical defeat of Daesh,” said Mazlum Kobane, the chief commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

U.S. and SDF flags fluttered at the site, as SDF men and women clad in military fatigues marched at a military parade.

For the past several months, the fight against the Islamic State has been centered on Baghuz, a small village on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

Pitched battles were fought there, with the SDF accusing the militants of using civilians as human shields. The insurgents often holed themselves up in a network of underground tunnels they had dug. A U.S.-led air coalition attacked them.

The SDF declared “100 percent territorial defeat” of the Islamic State early Saturday, saying they had expelled all the fighters from their former bastion in Baghuz.


For all the exuberance among the SDF fighters, the forces remain wary of a surprise attack by remnants of the jihadist group.

“Despite the victory our forces will now be chasing the sleeper cells of this terrorist organization,” SDF commander Adnan Afrin said.

Saturday’s announcement brings to an end nearly five years of fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Sohneek Deebo, a member of the SDF political council, said “the main task now is not to give those terrorists the chance to reorganize themselves … This period will be crucial than the previous period.”

The Islamic State was at the peak of its power in the summer of 2014 when it took the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and established a self-styled “caliphate.”

Baghuz was the last significant territory that was still in the hands of the Islamic State, which for years controlled large parts of both countries.

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