The Islamic State group seized parts of a key town on the Syrian-Iraqi border Friday in a massive operation that further confirmed the jihadists remain a force on the ground.
IS used at least 10 suicide bombers in its offensive on Albu Kamal, which lies in he Euphrates Valley in eastern Syria and swiftly took several neighbourhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The offensive is the latest in a string of IS attacks which confirm predictions that the jihadist organisation would continue to be a threat even after the collapse of its “caliphate” last year.
At least 25 government and allied fighters were killed in the operation, one of the jihadists’ largest this year, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory.
“It’s the biggest attack on Albu Kamal since they lost it” in November 2017, he said.
“IS now controls several parts of the city. Fighting is ongoing in the centre,” he said, adding that at least 18 jihadists, including the suicide attackers, were also killed.
There was no immediate comment from the government camp.
Albu Kamal lies in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, about 440 kilometres (270 miles) east of the capital Damascus.
The area was the heart of the once sprawling, self-styled “caliphate” IS proclaimed in 2014 and its recapture by pro-government forces last year was the final nail in the proto-state’s coffin.
According to the Observatory, the jihadist organisation that once ruled a self-proclaimed state roughly the size of Britain now holds less than three percent of Syrian territory.
– Sleeper cells –
It faces parallel operations from US-backed Kurdish-led forces west of the Euphrates and Russian-supported pro-government forces on the eastern bank.
IS had on Sunday launched an operation on villages along the river that lie between Albu Kamal and the provincial capital Deir Ezzor.
According to the Observatory, at least 45 government and allied forces were killed in the offensive, mostly members of Shiite militia groups from Iraq and elsewhere.
The monitoring group said at least 22 pro-government fighters were also killed in an IS attack in a desert area of the southern province of Sweida on Thursday.
IS also launched an attack near the ancient oasis city of Palmyra last month after some of its fighters were transferred out of their last Damascus bastion of Yarmuk.
Observers had warned that the organisation likely had sleeper cells across the country that could launch deadly attacks against government forces, mostly in remote areas.
The “caliphate” as a jihadist statehood experiment had looked doomed ever since anti-IS operations started gathering steam on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border in 2015.
But analysts and military officers have always warned that IS fighters would revert to the guerrilla tactics they have mastered and continue to pose a threat.
The surge in attacks by IS comes at a time when the continued presence of US-led coalition forces in Syria is coming into question.
US President Donald Trump has vowed he would pull out his troops from Syria but Pentagon chief Jim Mattis had pleaded for a more patient approach.
A a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels on Friday, Mattis warned that leaving Syria too soon would be a mistake.
Mississippi sheriff busted for complaining Hispanic lawmaker is ‘worse than a black person’
On Friday, the Atlanta Black Star reported that Jim Johnson, the sheriff of Lee County, Mississippi, made a racist comment about Hispanic GOP state Rep. Shane Aguirre while complaining about his opposition to the construction of a new county jail outside Tupelo.
Aguirre, Johnson told white Lee County Supervisor Phil Morgan in a 2017 text message first released Tuesday by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, was "worse than a black person."
Another blue wave? This expert says is just might happen
In July 2018, the most widely respected analysts were decidedly uncertain whether the Democrats could retake the House. On July 6, Cook Political Report, for example, listed 180 seats as "solid" for Democrats, with 12 likely/lean and 3 "toss-up or worse." If the Democrats won all of those and the 22 GOP-held seats described as "toss-ups" — they'd still be one seat short of a majority, at 217.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Log Cabin Republican burned to the ground on live TV for ‘idiotic’ op-ed defending Trump on LGBTQ issues
On Saturday's edition of "AM Joy," former Senate aide Jimmy Williams clashed with Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Charles Moran over his Washington Post op-ed hailing President Donald Trump for supposedly taking "bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community."
"Since Trump became president, he's done, established, promulgated rules, or met with virulently homophobic leaders in the White House 123 times. Not 100 times, not 23 times, 123 times," said Williams. "In fact, yesterday, the Trump Department of Justice sent an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States saying transgendered Americans don't have the right to not be discriminated against in the workplace. They did that yesterday! I am glad President Trump is trying to decriminalize gender hate in the United States. I cannot go and adopt a child in South Carolina, where I currently am as we speak, because the president of the United States granted a waiver to South Carolina back in January of this year saying that adoption agencies in the state can say no to gay people trying to adopt."