World Middle East 08 Nov 2016 Forces push closer t ...

Forces push closer to Raqa

AFP
Published Nov 8, 2016, 12:38 am IST
Updated Nov 8, 2016, 6:51 am IST
he SDF says some 30,000 fighters are taking part in the operation.
Derek Coleman, centre, a volunteer medic, treats a wounded Iraqi special forces soldier at a field clinic in Gogjali, on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: AP)
 Derek Coleman, centre, a volunteer medic, treats a wounded Iraqi special forces soldier at a field clinic in Gogjali, on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: AP)

Syria: A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance pushed closer to Raqa and Iraqi forces seized a key town near Mosul as offensives advanced on Monday against the two Islamic State group strongholds. After announcing the start of the long-awaited offensive on Raqa on Sunday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance said it had moved south towards the city despite fierce jihadist resistance. South of Mosul, Iraqi forces had retaken the town of Hamam al-Alil from ISIS, a key objective in their three-week advance on the city.

Raqa and Mosul are the last major cities in Syria and Iraq under the jihadists’ control and their capture would deal a knockout blow to the self-styled “caliphate” ISIS declared in mid-2014. The US-led coalition that launched operations against ISIS two years ago is providing crucial backing to the offensives, with both air strikes and special forces advisers on the ground. SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said that forces had advanced on two fronts towards Raqa amid heavy fighting. Alliance forces had pushed at least 10 km south towards the city from the towns of Ain Issa and Suluk, she said.

 

In both cases SDF fighters were still some distance from Raqa — on the Ain Issa front at least 30 km away. “The offensive is going according to plan,” said Ahmed, who added that 10 villages had so far been taken from ISIS. An SDF commander said ISIS was fighting back with its favourite tactic of sending suicide bombers in explosives-packed vehicles against advancing forces. The SDF says some 30,000 fighters are taking part in the operation.

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