IS mil­i­tants in fi­nal stand in Raqqa en­clave

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG ANA

IS­LAMIC State (IS) mil­i­tants were put­ting up a last-bid fight in their re­main­ing Syr­ian en­clave of Raqqa as the US-backed coali­tion drives them out of the city which they have con­trolled since 2014.

Colonel Ryan Dil­lon, spokesman of the US Com­bined Joint Task Force-Op­er­a­tion In­her­ent Re­solve, said that IS re­sis­tance was in­creas­ing, while the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF) con­tin­ued the fight in Raqqa.

“In the first two weeks, there was sig­nif­i­cant progress — very quick progress that was made,” he said.

How­ever, he said that now there was more sig­nif­i­cant re­sis­tance by IS mil­i­tants in Raqqa, the Kur­dish news agency ARA re­ported yes­ter­day.

“The SDF in the ad­vance have since hit some sig­nif­i­cant re­sis­tance from IS. And now we are start­ing to see some of these, you know, bet­ter-em­placed de­fences as we have got­ten to the places where we have ad­vanced to in the cam­paign in and around Raqqa,” said Dil­lon.

“Our part­nered force in Raqqa, the SDF, are in their third week of of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions to un­seat ter­ror­ists from IS’s de facto cap­i­tal. The SDF have taken 45km² of ground from IS, in and around Raqqa, this past week.

“The SDF con­tin­ues to fight, along with three axes, to­wards the cen­tre of Raqqa against sub­stan­tial IS re­sis­tance,” he said. More­over, the coali­tion spokesper­son said that it was still unclear where the US-led coali­tion would fight next af­ter Raqqa is lib­er­ated.

“Once we call the lib­er­a­tion, or once Raqqa has been lib­er­ated, then we have to see, then, where else is there to go, where else is there ISheld ter­ri­tory,” he said.

“Right now, we know that IS-held ter­ri­tory is along the mid­dle Euphrates river val­ley. But is that go­ing to still be true at the end of the fight in Raqqa? We’re go­ing to have to see about that,” added Dil­lon.

The of­fi­cial added that it was pos­si­ble they would con­tinue to com­bat IS along the Euphrates river val­ley.

“So we will have to eval­u­ate and see where IS still holds ter­ri­tory af­ter the fight of Raqqa. Clearly, right now, that’s along the mid­dle Euphrates river val­ley.

“We will con­tinue to strike resources and lead­ers through­out that mid­dle Euphrates river val­ley — in Mayadin, Abu Ka­mal, Al-Qaim,” Dil­lon added.

In the wake of a mil­i­tary vic­tory, the US wants lo­cal gov­er­nance in north­ern Syria, de­spite be­ing un­cer­tain as to what Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al Asaad, or the SDF would do af­ter Raqqa was lib­er­ated.

“I know that we are con­sis­tently push­ing to­wards lo­cal gov­er­nance, which is the coun­cils and the se­cu­rity forces that lib­er­ate ar­eas from IS, who are rep­re­sen­ta­tive and re­spon­sive to the peo­ple in those ar­eas,” said Dil­lon.

How­ever, a US state de­part­ment spokesper­son said it was unclear yet what the post-IS plan was. “So we aren’t com­pletely there yet. The fight for Raqqa is still un­der way and still tak­ing place. The US will never de­ter­mine who will take con­trol or take charge in terms of its gov­ern­ment. That will be up for the Syr­ian peo­ple to de­cide,” US state de­part­ment spokesper­son Heather Nauert stated.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces fight­ers carry coffins of fallen com­rades killed by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Raqqa dur­ing a fu­neral on Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.