Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is leading ground operations in Deir ez-Zor to dislodge Daesh from its final holdout in Hajin and desert areas near the Iraqi border.
A report by The Sun pointed out that the war between Daesh and SDF forces became similar to street fights, indicating that the noose is tightening around Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s neck in his residence in Hajin, a small city in eastern Syria, administratively part of the Deir ez-Zor Governorate.
Commenting on rumors that al-Baghdadi may be hiding out in the Hajin, SDF commander Havel Ronnie revealed that Baghdadi’s brother “was in the area recently (and) he was holding a meeting encouraging people to fight.
“Also, about a month and a half ago, we got intelligence that we killed (one of) Baghdadi’s sons,” the commander told The Sun. “In other battles, the jihadists had other places to run to, but in Hajin they have nowhere to go.”
The coalition killed in airstrikes at least 20 Daesh militants in Hajin on Sunday, according to SANA, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF restored positions it had lost to attacks in recent days.
Battles raged on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river on Sunday. “The SDF did regain back a lot of territory lost the other day,” Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, told Reuters. “Both sides took casualties.”
Iraqi security forces are securing the border so no fighters can escape, he added.
The SDF, which the Kurdish YPG militia leads, has seized vast territory from the jihadists across northern and eastern Syria, where some 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed.
The U.S.-led coalition says it seeks to avoid civilian casualties and investigates any allegations. Colonel Ryan said on Saturday that strikes were limited and had not affected civilians.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 50 Islamic State and 79 SDF combatants.
Intelligence agencies in Iraq and Europe believe that for most of the past 18 months, Baghdadi has been based in a village south of Ba’aj, and has travelled in a small range between Abu Kamal, on the Iraq-Syria border, and Shirkat, south of Mosul, The Guardian reported.
According to Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert and writer on Isis, Baghdadi is literally the last man standing among the group’s founding members. “Out of 43 main leaders, Baghdadi is the only one left,” he said.