U.S.-backed Kurdish coalition forces close in on ISIS in Raqqa

Special to WorldTribune.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A U.S.-backed Arab-Kurd coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants near Raqqa has captured the district of Al-Qadisia outside of the extremists’ self-declared capital in Syria, military officials say.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took Al-Qadisia, west of Raqqa, after three days of intense fighting, the SDF said on June 25 amid reports of stiffening ISIS resistance.

An SDF military vehicle in western Raqqa Province earlier this month. / Reuters

The SDF began its drive against Raqqa — the last IS stronghold inside Syria — in early June after a monthslong campaign to encircle ISIS fighters inside the city.

The report of the gains comes on the same day that U.S.-led Iraqi government troops reported major advances against ISIS in Mosul, the group’s capital in Iraq and its last stronghold in that country.

The loss of Raqqa and Mosul would represent major victories against ISIS, which captured large swathes of territory from Syrian and Iraqi government forces in 2014.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said on June 25 that ISIS resistance around Raqqa was increasing as the militants became more desperate.

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

“The SDF in the advance have since hit some significant resistance from ISIS…. We are starting to see…better-emplaced defenses [closer to Raqqa],” he said, using another acronym for the IS group.

The U.S.-backed coalition has provided artillery and air support for the SDF around Raqqa.

The coalition has also reported that it has killed several ISIS leaders, including Turki Binali, a Bahraini cleric who was one of the group’s most visible preachers and regularly appeared in its propaganda videos.

The United States has supported rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war.

Russia and Iran back Assad, while ISIS extremists are fighting against both sides.

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