Iraq Launches Offensive to Recapture Last Town under ISIS Control

Trump has inherited America's vexed legacy in Iraq

Trump has inherited America's vexed legacy in Iraq

Syrian regime forces and allied militia overran Albu Kamal, which lies on the border with Iraq, on Thursday but have since faced a string of IS counter-attacks.

The military unit did not say what had happened to Baghdadi, give further details or identify its sources.

A media outlet linked to the Syrian military said Friday that the Islamic State group's leader may be holed up in an ISIS pocket in the eastern town of Boukamal, which government forces and their allies recaptured this week before losing parts of it later.

Al-Baghdadi, who took the reins of Islamic State in 2010, is a Baghdad-trained cleric from the city of Samarra who is reported to have fought against US forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The organization's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reported to be in the area. "We are aware of local and regional media reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in Abu Kamal, but we can not confirm these reports".

"IS has nearly completely retaken control of Albu Kamal, pushing pro-regime forces to its southern and eastern edges", said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitor.

The forces and their allies were still fighting ISIS in desert areas near Albu Kamal, the last town the militant group had held in Syria.

An audio message purported to be from Baghdadi was released in September.

USA officials later said they believed he was still alive.

Rumors about al-Baghdadi have swirled since his fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014, capturing about a third of both countries.

The speech, delivered in July 2014, energized thousands of Muslims around the world to travel to Iraq and Syria and to take up arms for the militant group.

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