Iraqi military launch offensive on last Islamic State stronghold

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Iraqi forces seized several villages from the Daesh extremist group on Saturday in an operation to retake the last pocket of militant-held territory in the country, the operation's commander said.

Meanwhile, Al-Bukamal, just across the Syrian border, reportedly fell back to IS on November 11, two Syrian opposition activists said.

Syrian government forces and allied paramilitaries from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran overran Albu Kamal on Thursday but lost the town again just two days later after a series of ISIL attacks.

Syria's state-run television network reported that government forces and allied fighters had recaptured Boukamal on Thursday. Leading the battle for the town were the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah and advisers from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, as well as fighters from mostly Shia Iraqi militias, according to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. Numerous group's top leaders have been killed as Syrian and Iraqi forces with backing from Russia, Iran and a US-led coalition rolled back the territorial losses that saw the jihadists declare a "caliphate" roughly the size of Britain in 2014. The report on Friday did not elaborate on how the soldiers heard about al-Baghdadi or what they were doing about the information.

With the fall of Daesh's (ISIS) last significant stronghold in Syria, Iranian and Russian-backed Syrian troops now turn to face off with their main rival, the US -backed forces holding large oil fields and strategic territory in the country's north and east.

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