US-backed fighters 'seize 80% of Raqqa from Islamic State'

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that its campaign to capture Raqqa from Islamic State is in its final stages, with fighters having seized 80% of the city

20 September 2017, 4:32pm
A fighter from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sits in a military tank in Raqqa (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
A fighter from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sits in a military tank in Raqqa (Photo: Reuters/Rodi Said)
In a statement on Wednesday, the SDF said that it had opened a new front on terror group Isis, on the northern edge of the city, which was their de facto capital. It said the offensive was “a feature of the final stages of the Euphrates Wrath campaign, which is nearing its end”.

The forces, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish militias, launched its offensive against Isis in Raqqa back in June and were backed by US-led airstrikes and special forces on the ground.

Isis militants whom are still in the city have nearly run out of food, resources and munitions, according to the Observatory. They are also battling two separate offensives in eastern Syria, which were launched by the SDF on one side, and the Syrian army and its allies on the other, in the Deir ez-Zor province.

With the backing of Syrian and Russian war planes, the Syrian army has made wide advances along the Euphrates’ western riverbank, reported the Observatory.

The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir al-Zor. On Monday, the US-backed militia warned against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.

On Tuesday, Russia’s defence ministry said the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it. The only way that could have happened was if upstream dams held by the US-backed opposition had been opened, it said.

Through much of Tuesday night and into Wednesday, a blaze at a large has field, known as Conoco, occurred, after the Syrian state media reported that the army was advancing towards it. Isis had fled the area, said the Observatory.

The hardline militants lost their main stronghold in Iraq, the city of Mosul, in July to Iraqi forces backed by the west.