Syria Group Declares Attack on IS in Raqqa

Syria Group Declares Attack on IS in RaqqaSyria Group Declares Attack on IS in Raqqa

US-backed militants said on Sunday they were launching an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group. The attack ratchets up pressure on the militant group at a critical moment, with its fighters already battling an offensive by Iraqi security forces on their remaining Iraqi stronghold in the northern city of Mosul, Reuters reported.

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab armed groups, first announced on Sunday that a campaign to retake Raqqa would begin within hours, with US forces providing air cover. Soon afterwards, it said that the operation, called Euphrates Anger, had begun.

"The general command of the Syria Democratic Forces announces the blessed start of its major military campaign to liberate the city of Raqqa," Jehan Sheikh Amad, an SDF spokeswoman, told a news conference in the Syrian town of Ain Issa. The SDF called on Raqqa's civilians to avoid areas where IS militants are present and to go to "liberated territory".

An attack on Raqqa has been long expected, with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying on Oct. 25 that the battle to retake it would "overlap" with the assault on Mosul.

The top US military commander in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, said last month that the US-led coalition fighting IS wanted to move urgently to isolate Raqqa because of concerns about the group using the city as a base to plan and launch attacks against targets abroad.

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