A US-backed Kurdish and Arab force says it has begun an operation to capture Raqqa, so-called Islamic State’s “capital” in Syria. The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) will be aided by US-led coalition air strikes. They have warned civilians to steer clear of areas where IS militants are present.
The coalition of Kurdish and ethnic Arab militias has been gaining ground in areas to the north of the city. The offensive was announced at a press conference in Ain Issa, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away from Raqqa.
“The major battle to liberate Raqqa and its surroundings has begun,” a spokesperson for the SDF said. Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama’s envoy to the US-led coalition against IS, said: “The Raqqa campaign will proceed in phases – very deliberate phases”
“There is an isolation phase which began today and there will be subsequent phases to make sure that that we kick Daesh out of Raqqa and that will happen,” he added, using another acronym for IS.