Fighters of the Kurdish militia YPG in northern Syria (File)
The US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have captured one of the last strategic positions of the Islamic State in Syria.
An SDF commander said the town of Sousah, in the Hajin area of eastern Deir ez-Zor Province near the Iraqi border, was taken on Tuesday. That leaves only a handful of villages along the Euphrates River under ISIS control.
The SDF launched its offensive in and around Hajin on September 10. The area has been held by ISIS since mid-2014.
Last week US warplanes struck a mosque in Sousa, killing dozens of civilians, according to local sources and the monitoring group Airwars. The American military maintains that the mosque was a command-and-control ceneter and the dead are ISIS fighters.
Col. Sean Ryan of the US-led coalition said the SDF “still have a lot of fighting to do” to capture remaining villages and farmland: “Sousa is just another step towards Hajin,” Col. Ryan added.
SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel says he expects the offensive to take “two or three months” to overcome networks of ISIS tunnels.
The Islamic State reportedly kidnapped at least 100 civilians from a camp for displaced persons near the town of Hajin.
ISIS had held much of north and east Syria and neighboring northern Iraq, in an area the size of the United Kingdom, before SDF and parallel Assad regime offensives pushed back the group from autumn 2015.
Japanese Journalist Freed After 40 Months
Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda has been freed after 40 months in captivity in Syria.
Yasuda spoke briefly from southern Turkey by video on Wednesday.
He traveled to Syria in 2015 to report on the death of his friend Kenji Goto, a journalist who was seized and killed by the Islamic State. He went missing on June 23, 2015.
Several videos showing a man believed to be Yasuda were released in the past year.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call for the “rescue”.