10/06/2034 11:34 PM ET

NEWS

Another Pocket Of Islamic State Fighters Surrenders

Patrick Seevey
Huntington Courier Foreign Affairs Correspondent

CC BY 3.0 Al-Nusra Front members and a Free Syrian Army commander in w:Maarrat al-Nu'man, 11 March 2016 by w:Voice of America | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 Image by Eflon | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Jabhat al-Nusra fighters celebrate in al-Tabqah.
Yesterday, another formation of Islamic State Fighters surrendered, this time in the town of al-Tabqah.

The BBC is reporting up to 750 mostly Syrian combatants, willingly gave themselves up after three weeks of heavy fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra soldiers.

This follows Islamic State's strategic losses in 2032 of Markadeh to Kurdish forces and Mayadin to Iranian Shia paramilitary brigades.

Last year Iraqi regular forces took Suknah, as the net closed more tightly around the self-declared Caliphate's de-facto capital of Raqqah. In January this year al-Nusra Front also captured Maskanah, in formerly Syrian territory, executing up to a thousand IS combatants in retaliation for similar IS actions.

Al-Tabqah is a key city on the road to Raqqah, lying approximately 55 kilometres to the west. It is largely abandoned after more than two decades of war, with most of its buildings destroyed by artillery fire.

Islamic State's decline has been well-documented in recent years. Western forces have stepped up their focus on the group's money movement, strangling foreign financing of the terror group. Intentional targeting of physical cash has forced morale problems among fighters who have not been paid regularly for years.

Added to this is the the almost complete drying up of foreign fighters, many of whom see defeat as inevitable and question the group's prophetic statements.

This latest victory for IS's foes comes as rumors swirl around the absence of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the enigmatic IS leader who has not been filmed for three years.

Reports have proposed that he has gone underground, for fear of being targeted by continued American and British aerial strikes.

However, an Al Jazeera report last year suggested a possible struggle for control between al-Baghdadi and his top lieutentant, Abu Ali al-Anbari, the IS military commander for the Syrian sector.

It is thought by some Western analysts that al-Anbari has masterminded the swift fall of IS's key Syrian cities in order to destabilise al-Baghdadi's grip on power.
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