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Less than 3 000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria

Under three thousand IS fighters in Iraq and SyriaThe United States-led international coalition fighting Islamic State estimates fewer than 3,000 fighters belonging to the hardline Sunni militant group remain in Iraq and Syria.

Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqa and swathes of other territory.

“Current estimates are there are less than 3,000 #Daesh fighters left - they still remain a threat, but we will continue to support our partner forces to defeat them,” US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Dillon’s tweet was part of his response to an online question and answer session in which he said the coalition trained 125,000 members of Iraqi security forces, including 22,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Asked if the United States planned to build permanent military bases in Iraq or Syria following the defeat of Islamic State, Dillon said it would not. “No - the Government of #Iraq knows where and how many from Coalition are here to support operation to defeat #Daesh; all bases are #Iraqi led,” he tweeted.

The coalition will begin a transition from retaking territory to consolidating gains, it later said in a statement following a meeting of its leaders with Iraqi military commanders.

“We will continue to support our Iraqi partners in the battle against ISIS (Islamic State) with training, equipment, advice and assistance,” said Major General Felix Gedney, coalition Deputy Commander for Strategy and Support.

“The next phase will focus on provision of lasting security, while developing Iraqi sustainability and self-sufficiency,” he said.

The coalition was responsible for “liberating more than 4.5 million Iraqis and over 52,200 square kilometres of territory,” the statement said. It is under fire for the number of civilian casualties resulting from air strikes carried out in support of local forces.

Coalition strikes unintentionally killed at least 801 civilians between August 2014 and October 2017, a lower figure than that provided by monitoring groups.

Monitoring group Airwars says at least 5,961 civilians were killed in coalition air strikes.

The coalition says it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and it is still assessing 695 reports of casualties from strikes in Iraq and in Syria.

 

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