As U.S.-backed forces close in on Islamic State’s last territory in Syria, some militants are fleeing to Iraq—using longstanding smuggling networks and posing as nomadic shepherds to slip through the border, according to Iraqi officials.
Iraq has rushed to reinforce its Syrian frontier amid concerns that Islamic State members will regroup here and threaten the country’s security, military officials said. In recent weeks, the officials said, Baghdad—which fought a yearslong, devastating war to oust Islamic State from Iraq—has sent more troops to the border and used artillery and war planes to strike Islamic State fighters inside Syrian territory.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Tuesday all necessary measures had been taken to prevent any infiltration and that the border was secure. But military officials say the need for vigilance remains.
Islamic State at its height controlled territory across parts of Syria and Iraq, but U.S. defense officials estimate it is now down to roughly 1½ square miles in eastern Syria, around 6 miles from the Iraqi border.
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