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U.S.-Led Coalition Says IS Fighters Moving Freely Through Syrian Territory


A Syrian Army tank fires during a battle against Islamic State militants in Deir al-Zor in Novemeber.

The Syrian government appears to be allowing Islamic State (IS) militants to move freely through territory it controls, the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria has said.

The accusation comes after both the coalition and the Syrian government claim to have largely ousted IS from territory the extremist group once held in northern and eastern Syria.

"They seem to be moving with impunity through regime-held territory, showing that the regime is clearly either unwilling or unable to defeat Daesh within their borders," said British Army Major General Felix Gedney, a deputy commander in the coalition, using an alternative name for the group.

Despite the complaint, Gedney said the coalition will not try to target IS militants with air strikes when they are observed in Syrian government territory, and will continue to rely on Syria and its ally Russia to pursue them in those areas.

The coalition estimates that fewer than 1,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria. Even so, Gedney said the fight against IS was not over, and militants in particular have been seen moving west of the Euphrates River in areas controlled by Syria and its allies.

"We would call on the Syrian regime to clear ISIS from those areas that are currently under their control," he said.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
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