Daesh attack kills 24 US-backed fighters in east Syria: monitor

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LONDON: Daesh has killed 24 US-backed fighters in two days in an attack launched from its embattled holdout in eastern Syria, a war monitor said Saturday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Kurdish-led alliance backed by the US-led coalition is battling to expel the militants from a pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on the Iraqi border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the jihadists broke out of that pocket on Friday to attack a nearby village where SDF fighters and coalition advisers are based.

“IS launched a broad attack on the village of Al-Bahra next to its holdout, taking advantage of the fog,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said using a name for Daesh.

Abdel Rahman said 24 SDF fighters were killed in the attack, and violent clashes continued to rage on Saturday as coalition air planes carried out air strikes in the area.

Twenty-seven Daesh militants were killed in clashes and air strikes in the same period, according to the Observatory, which says it relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

The monitor said coalition raids has also killed 17 civilians, including five children, in the Daesh-held pocket since Friday.

Coalition spokesman Sean Ryan said he had not received any reports of civilian casualties, and insisted its air strikes had been “very limited due to the weather.”

The anti-Daesh alliance has repeatedly denied previous reports of civilians killed in its air strikes, and said it does its utmost to avoid targeting non-combatants.

Deir Ezzor activist Omar Abu Leila said the attack on Al-Bahra was “very scary” and that Daesh fighters were able to move quickly “taking advantage of the fog.”

Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled but has lost most of it to offensives by multiple forces in both countries.

In Syria, the militants are largely confined to the pocket in Deir Ezzor, but they also have a presence in vast Badia desert that stretches across the country to the Iraqi border.

Since 2014, the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number much higher.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since its started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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