Kur­dish-led fight­ers march­ing against IS near Syria’s Raqqa

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BEIRUT (AP): A SYR­IAN Kur­dish-led force fighting the Is­lamic State group north of the coun­try is on the verge of sur­round­ing a wide area north of the IS strong­hold of Raqqa, ac­cord­ing to a spokes­woman for the group.

Ci­han Ehmed of the United States (US)backed Syria Demo­cratic Forces (SDF) told The As­so­ci­ated Press yes­ter­day that its fight­ers are ad­vanc­ing on two fronts north of Raqqa, the de facto cap­i­tal of IS’ self­de­clared caliphate. The push from Ein Issa and Su­luk north of Raqqa has been on­go­ing for days un­der the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coali­tion.

The US-backed SDF, which in­cludes Kur­dish, Arab, Syr­iac and Turk­men fight­ers, say they have com­mit­ted 30,000 fight­ers to the of­fen­sive, aim­ing to even­tu­ally re­cap­ture the city of Raqqa, which was an­nounced on Sun­day. Iraq is mean­while wag­ing a ma­jor of­fen­sive to drive IS from the north­ern city of Mo­sul.

Ehmed said once the forces com­ing from the two di­rec­tions meet north of Raqqa, they will sur­round 550 square kilo­me­ters (212 square miles) of ter­ri­tory con­trolled by the ex­trem­ists.

“The op­er­a­tions are on­go­ing ac­cord­ing to the plan,” she said.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said many peo­ple are flee­ing ar­eas of fighting north of Raqqa. It added that SDF fight­ers have ad­vanced north of Raqqa, cap­tur­ing new ar­eas and rais­ing to 17 the num­ber of vil­lages and farms taken from IS since the of­fen­sive be­gan.

Later yes­ter­day, the SDF said on so­cial me­dia that its fight­ers had cap­tured three farms, a vil­lage, and had ap­proached the vil­lage of Hayes, where in­tense clashes are on­go­ing. Law-en­force­ment per­son­nel gather af­ter a nearby shoot­ing in Canons­burg, Penn­syl­va­nia yes­ter­day. Mul­ti­ple west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia po­lice of­fi­cers were “am­bushed” and shot while re­spond­ing to a do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion, au­thor­i­ties said.

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