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U.S.-backed Syrian forces, Iraqi army coordinate at border - SDF

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U.S.-backed Syrian forces, Iraqi army coordinate at border - SDF

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S.-backed militias in Syria said they have set up a joint military centre with the Iraqi army to protect their common border region after ousting Islamic State.

Commanders of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, met with Iraqi military leaders on Sunday. They "discussed protecting the Syrian-Iraqi border in the region adjacent to Deir al-Zor province, and how to finally eradicate Daesh mercenaries there," the SDF said in a statement.

"The two sides decided to form a joint coordination centre to guarantee the security of the border," it said.

Last week, the SDF declared victory in its assault against Islamic State militants in Syria's Deir al-Zor, which borders Iraq. The offensive focused on seizing territory east of the Euphrates river that bisects the oil-rich province.

The Kurdish-led SDF has been battling for months with the help of jets and special forces from the U.S.-led coalition.

On the other side, Iraqi forces recaptured the last swathes of territory still under Islamic State control along the border with Syria on Saturday and secured the western desert. It marked the end of the war against the militants, three years after they had captured about a third of Iraq's territory.

Those who fought Islamic State came from the army, air force, federal and local police, elite counter-terrorism forces, as well as Shi'ite and Sunni paramilitaries and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. They received key air support from the U.S.-led global coalition.

Forces battling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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