Top Kur­dish com­man­der killed in anti-IS push

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIRUT—A top Syr­ian Kur­dish com­man­der died Mon­day, sev­eral days af­ter sus­tain­ing in­juries dur­ing a U.S.-backed cam­paign to un­seat ISIS from its de-facto Syr­ian cap­i­tal, Raqqa. Abu Layla, who com­manded a bri­gade in­side the pre­dom­i­nantly-Kur­dish Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, was hit by ISIS sniper fire on the out­skirts of Man­bij, an ISIS strong­hold that con­trols the sup­ply route be­tween the Turk­ish bor­der and Raqqa, the Kur­dish web­site Ru­daw said. He was evac­u­ated by US forces to a hos­pi­tal in the Iraqi Kur­dish city of Su­lay­maniyah, where he died.

The com­man­der fought against ISIS mil­i­tants in Kobani in early 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a mon­i­tor­ing group. Those bat­tles, the first ma­jor set­back to the IS ad­vance in north­ern Syria, were seen as in­stru­men­tal to se­cur­ing US sup­port for Kur­dish forces in the coun­try’s multi-lay­ered con­flict.

The SDF are now ad­vanc­ing on Man­bij, 155 ki- lome­ters (72 miles) to the north­west of Raqqa, as Syr­ian govern­ment forces backed by Ira­nian, Le­banese and Rus­sian fire­power, ad­vance on the IS cap­i­tal from the south. It is un­clear whether the twin of­fen­sives were co­or­di­nated.

Pro-govern­ment forces reached within 40 kilo­me­ters (25 miles) of the Tabqa Air Base, to the west of Raqqa, ac­cord­ing to the Ob­ser­va­tory. ISIS mil­i­tants cap­tured the base from the govern­ment in 2014, killing scores of cap­tured sol­diers. The me­dia arm of Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah group, which is fight­ing along­side govern­ment forces, said the Syr­ian army took a small vil­lage 50 kilo­me­ters (31 miles) to the south­west of Tabqa air base.

The twin of­fen­sive on ISIS-strongholds in Syria co­in­cides with a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in neigh­bor­ing Iraq on Fal­lu­jah, one of the most im­por­tant cities still held by the mil­i­tant group. The Civil De­fense, a first re­spon­der group that op­er­ates in rebel-held ar­eas, re­ported 50 airstrikes in Aleppo on Sun­day. The Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees, an ac­tivist net­work, said the strikes killed at least 30 peo­ple.—Agen­cies

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