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The US-led assault on the final ISIS stronghold in Syria is underway
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State's last stronghold in eastern Syria and hundreds of civilians fled the besieged enclave on Monday as U.S.-backed fighters pressed their campaign to seize it.
Coalition jets roared overhead as columns of white smoke rose from the Islamic State-held Baghouz area a short distance from the Iraqi border, a Reuters witness said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have driven Islamic State (IS) from swathes of northern and eastern Syria with U.S.-led coalition support, launched an offensive on Saturday to capture the enclave in Deir al-Zor province.
The jihadists are putting up stiff resistance and had sought to counter-attack again on Monday morning, according to Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office. Around 1,500 civilians had fled the enclave on Monday, he added.
SDF combatants watched as a column of at least 17 trucks filled with men, women and children left Baghouz along a dusty track into SDF-held territory. Women and children were crammed into the back of one of the trucks.
Some of those fleeing identified themselves as Iraqis.
"It seems there are still many civilians inside Baghouz," Bali said. "We are compelled to go cautiously and accurately in this battle."
On the outskirts of Baghouz, the people who had left stood in lines to be questioned by coalition and SDF forces apparently trying to identify whether any were jihadists.
Ahead of launching the attack, the SDF said more than 20,000 civilians had left Baghouz in the preceeding 10 days.
The SDF believes 400 to 600 jihadists may be holed up there, including foreigners and other hardened militants.
Islamic State redrew the map of the Middle East in 2014 when it declared a caliphate across large tracts of Syria and Iraq. But the group steadily lost ground and its two main prizes - the Syrian city of Raqqa and Iraq's Mosul - fell in 2017.
The SDF, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, advanced southwards into Deir al-Zor province after capturing Raqqa. Their operations have been focused in areas east of the Euphrates River.
To the west of the Euphrates, in territory otherwise held by the Syrian government and its allies,Islamic State retains a foothold in mountainous terrain.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in December he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, saying the battle against Islamic State there was almost won.
The top U.S. commander overseeing American forces in the Middle East said on Sunday that the United States is likely just weeks away from starting the withdrawal.
Islamic State is still widely seen as a threat, however.
A top U.S. general said last week IS would be an enduring menace following the U.S. withdrawal, as it retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that would fuel further insurgency.
Italian freelance photographer Gabriele Micalizzi was wounded on Monday while covering the battles, Italian media reported. The reports said Micalizzi was badly hurt but had not suffered life-threatening injuries and was being flown to Baghdad where he would be evacuated to Italy.
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Robots in the air, on the ocean surface and on the ground guarded British Royal Marines as they stormed a beach during an important April 2019 war game.
The ground robot, in particular, is a new capability for the Royal Marines. The gun- and rocket-armed, tank-like unmanned ground vehicle could boost the naval branch's firepower while helping to keep human beings out of harm's way.
Alpha Company of the Royal Marines' 40 Commando and their robot guardians stormed a beach in Cornwall in southwest England as part of Exercise Commando Warrior. The Royal Marines' 1 Assault Group supported the naval infantry.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department unveiled 17 new criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, saying he unlawfully published the names of classified sources and conspired with and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information.
The superseding indictment comes a little more than a month after the Justice Department unsealed a narrower criminal case against Assange.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — Three members of the defense team for Navy SEAL Chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher were revealed on Wednesday to have close ties to the Trump administration amid reports the president is considering the veteran Navy SEAL for a pardon on Memorial Day.
President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Marc Mukasey, 51, and longtime Trump associate Bernard Kerik, 63, a former New York City police commissioner, have joined Gallagher's defense team in recent months, both men told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in response to a question from a reporter after a motions hearing, lead defense attorney Tim Parlatore confirmed that he had previously represented Pete Hegseth, the conservative Fox News personality who has been privately lobbying Trump since January to pardon Gallagher, according to The Daily Beast.
Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace as governor of Missouri last year, is putting his uniform back on — just not as a Navy SEAL.
Greitens, who stepped down in May 2018 amid criminal charges related to an alleged extramarital affair, has become a reserve naval officer with Navy Operational Support Center — St. Louis, a spokeswoman for Navy Recruiting Command confirmed to Task & Purpose. The Kansas City Star first reported the news.