ISIS pushed from last major Iraqi stronghold

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ISIS pushed from last major Iraqi stronghold

Before Syria's war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, around 300,000 people lived in the city, the capital of Deir Ezzor province along Syria's eastern border with Iraq.

"Several terrorists were killed and a number of booby-trapped vehicles destroyed during the operation", he said, adding that most remaining ISIS militants had since fled the area towards Al-Qaim.

The Syrian army, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by the United States, are now racing to take the rest of the oil-rich eastern province, including the key town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border.

Syrian state media say the army has liberated the eastern city of Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that shelling from the Iraqi side of the border hit the small Syrian town of Abughaz, near Boukamal. He hailed the city's recapture as a strategic win, noting its location on a crossroads linking the country's eastern, northern and central regions, as well as an "oil and gas reservoir" - a reference to the province.

Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) fighters fire a cannon against Islamic State militants in Al-Qaim, Iraq November 3, 2017.

In October, it lost its one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqa after an assault of more than four months waged by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance.

Qaim is located in the western part of Anbar province, along the Iraq-Syria border, where ISIS holds the last of its territory - the remnants of its so-called caliphate.

"ISIS members have to choose between death and surrender", Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement announcing the offensive last week.

The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is believed to be hiding in the desert near the frontier.

Experts agree the group's territorial losses will not mark the end of ISIS, which will continue its insurgency and try to inspire attacks around the globe by disenchanted individuals. Authorities identified the attacker as Sayfullo Saipov, 29, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, and the ISIS described him as "a soldier of the caliphate".

Syrian government forces and their pro-government allies first broke the militant group's siege of their part of the city in September and have been advancing against ISIS positions since then.

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