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Islamic State defeated, “caliphate” eliminated – U.S.-backed SDF

FILE PHOTO: Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand together in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 20, 2019. Picture taken March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo

BEIRUT, March 23 (Reuters) – Islamic State has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.

The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate”, Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.

“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.

The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.

Though the defeat of Islamic State at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the jihadist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.

Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.

The United States believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.

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