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  • A file photo of Syrian army forces capturing al-Sukhna in August 2017.

    A file photo of Syrian army forces capturing al-Sukhna in August 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 November 2017

A Syrian army commander said that Hezbollah played the key role in ousting the Islamic State group from the town.

Syria has declared victory Thursday after seizing the last Islamic State group stronghold in its territory, as the Syrian army captured the border town of al-Boukamal.

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“The liberation of al-Boukamal is of great importance because it is a declaration of the fall of this group’s project in the region generally and the collapse of its supporters’ illusions to divide it, control large parts of the Syria-Iraq borders and secure supply routes between the two countries,” army spokesman General Ali Mayhoub in a televised statement.

While the army and its allies are still fighting militants in surrounding areas, the capture of the town ends the Islamic State group’s three-year reign in the region.

In 2014, the Islamic State group had declared a so-called caliphate across Iraq and Syria, in which millions have suffered under its hardline, repressive structures.

Many of the group’s fighters surrendered or fled Thursday, with a Syrian army commander of the remaining militants near al-Boukamal saying, “There’s some fighters left but they’re few. Small numbers is all I can say.”

Another commander told Reuters that the Lebanese Shi’ite resistance group, Hezbollah, played the key role in ousting the Islamic State group from the town.

The army and its allies have now begun dismantling explosive devices and mines that were planted in al-Boukamal by Islamic State group militants.

Feras Shehabi, a Syrian MP in Aleppo, tweeted shortly after the victory, also warning of “new terror group(s) in western intelligence design rooms.”

The fall of the city has come in the wake of Iraqi forces seizing Al-Qa’im, the town across the border, last weekend.

Still, all forces fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare, a tactic the militants have used before in the two countries.

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The leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was last heard from in September, saying in an audio recording, “Oh Soldiers of Islam in every location, increase blow after blow, and make the media centers of the infidels, from where they wage their intellectual wars, among the targets.”

Still, the Syrian army has pledged, in a statement, “that our brave armed forces will ever remain the immune fortress of the homeland in facing terrorism, foiling the Zionist-American projects and defending the Syrian Arab Republic territorial integrity and safety.”

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