Islamic State on the verge of total defeat

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Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Saturday to capture Rawa, the last remaining town under ISIS control, leaving the extremist organization's self-proclaimed "caliphate" on the verge of complete defeat.

Two Iraqi infantry divisions and Sunni tribal forces are carrying out the operation in Anbar province.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based opposition activist, however, denied the report that al-Baghdadi is in Boukamal.

It is believed ISIL fighters are holding 10,000 civilians hostage in the town of Rawa.

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Losing it completely would have capped the group's reversion to an underground guerrilla organisation with no urban base.

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. He has been reported killed or wounded many times but IS has never offered any confirmation.

Rawa is the last town still held by ISIL, also known as ISIS, apart from Albu Kamal, just across the Syrian border, where the fighters are still battling Syrian government and allied forces after mounting a counteroffensive on Thursday. There was little to slow the advance of the Syrian army and its allies after their victories further up the Euphrates valley, but while the military phase of the fight against IS was nearing its end, the humanitarian crisis it sparked was still in full swing.

For weeks, the coalition said the SDF meant to push to Albukamal. The head of the UN's humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, questioned whether all was being done to protect civilians as mass displacement continued.

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