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IS attack kills 12 SDF fighters in east Syria: monitor

Two separate offensives have aimed at ousting IS from the frontier with Iraq [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 November, 2018

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The Islamic State group killed 12 Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in a surprise attack from the jihadists' holdout in eastern Syria.

Twelve US-backed fighters were killed by the Islamic State group in a surprise attack from the jihadists' holdout in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border, a UK-based monitor said on Sunday.

Twenty other Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were wounded in a suicide car bombing and subsequent clashes in the eastern province of Deir az-Zour, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

An SDF spokesman, however, denied any members of his Kurdish-led alliance had been killed.

"There are counter-attacks every day and the clashes are ongoing, but the talk of martyrs among our ranks is not true," Mustefa Bali said.

According to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman, Sunday's attack "started with a car bomb driven by a suicide attacker against an SDF position between Hajin and al-Bahra".

The attack allowed IS to advance towards al-Bahra from its holdout around Hajin, and push back the first lines of defence of the SDF, which is backed by the US-led coalition, the Observatory said.

The SDF, with the support of coalition airstrikes, in September launched an offensive to wrest the Deir az-Zour pocket including Hajin from IS, making slow advances.

But the alliance suffered a major setback as they retreated last week from the entire pocket after IS suicide bombings and low visibility due to sand storms.

Last Wednesday, the SDF suspended its fight against the jihadists after Turkish forces fired on the group's positions in northern Syria. 

On Friday, Iraqi troops reinforced their positions along the porous frontier with neighbouring war-torn Syria, fearing a spill-over from clashes there between Islamic State group jihadists and the US-backed forces.

According to Iraqi General Qassem al-Mohammadi, who heads operations in Iraq's western Anbar province, IS fighters were just "five or six kilometres away, inside Syria". 

Anbar, a massive desert governorate which extends from the edge of Baghdad west towards the Syrian border, served as a jihadist bastion before Iraqi forces retook it in late 2017. 

The coalition estimates that 2,000 IS fighters remain in the Hajin pocket.

A total of more than 360,000 people have been killed since Syria's multi-front war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests

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