Ji­hadis face blood­bath in Raqqa – en­voy

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

AS US-BACKED Syr­ian coali­tion forces surge ahead with re­tak­ing the Syr­ian city of Raqqa from Is­lamic State (IS) mil­i­tants, the US-coali­tion en­voy has warned that the bat­tle will be a blood­bath – for IS.

“The mis­sion is to make sure that any for­eign fighter who is here, who joined IS from a for­eign coun­try, who came into Syria, they will die here in Syria,” Brett McGurk, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s spe­cial en­voy to the fight against IS, told jour­nal­ist Je­nan Moussa for the Dubai-based Ara­bic News chan­nel Al Aan TV.

“If they are in Raqqa they are go­ing to die in Raqqa,” McGurk told Moussa in the of­fices of the Raqqa Civil Coun­cil, set to take over the run­ning of Raqqa once IS is de­feated – in the north­ern Syr­ian city of Ain Issa, about 48km north of Raqqa.

McGurk’s com­ments come in the wake of me­dia reports of IS vi­ciously turn­ing on dis­senters by us­ing spies to re­port on sus­pected en­e­mies in their ranks, ac­cord­ing to the wives of three Tu­nisian IS mem­bers who fled Raqqa.

The women de­tailed how IS lead­ers had fled Raqqa as pres­sure mounted from the US-backed cam­paign, and sep­a­rate of­fen­sives by Turkey-backed rebels and Rus­sian-backed gov­ern­ment forces.

One said or­di­nary fight­ers had been left be­hind to die like “sheep”. Their ac­counts out­lined grow­ing dis­sent within the ul­tra-hard­line group in north­ern Syria in re­cent months.

The UN has voiced grave con­cern over the fate of as many as 100 000 civil­ians “ef­fec­tively trapped” in the Raqqa gov­er­norate amid the on­go­ing of­fen­sive against IS fight­ers.

Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces fight­ers in­jured by a mor­tar round fired by IS rebels wait to be treated in a field hospi­tal in Raqqa.

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