The Islamic State caliphate in Syria may finally be toppled after almost five years of battle, at least according to word from US-backed forces there. Per CNN and the Guardian, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says it has liberated the last ISIS stronghold, the eastern village of Baghouz. The SDF declares "total elimination of so-called caliphate and [100%] territorial defeat of ISIS," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted early Saturday. "On this unique day, we commemorate thousands of martyrs whose efforts made the victory possible." SDF members tell CNN that ISIS fighters used women and children as human shields during the final hours of fighting and employed snipers, heat-seeking missiles, and improvised explosive devices to keep SDF forces at bay before their ultimate defeat.
When ISIS was at its peak in Syria, nearly 8 million people were said to have lived under its reign of terror. More than 11,000 SDF fighters are reported to have died during the offensive that started in 2014. CNN asks the question: "Has the battle against ISIS really been won?" The site points out that even though Syria appears to have been set free, ISIS still has roots, via affiliates, in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, the Philippines, and Nigeria, and has been trying to make inroads in remote parts of Iraq. (Read more ISIS stories.)