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Sunday, November 6, 2016

'The battle for the liberation of Raqa has begun'

AFP - A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance launched an offensive Sunday on the Islamic State group's de facto Syrian capital Raqa, upping pressure on the jihadists after Iraqi forces entered
their Iraqi bastion Mosul.

"The major battle to liberate Raqa and its surroundings has begun," Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said at a press conference in Ain Issa, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the jihadist bastion.

The operation, dubbed "The Wrath of the Euphrates," involves some 30,000 fighters and had begun on Saturday night, Ahmed said.

SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP it would proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqa and isolating the city, then "taking control of the city" itself.

"The fight will not be easy, and will require accurate and careful operations because IS will defend its bastion knowing that the loss of Raqa will mean it is finished in Syria," he said.
An AFP correspondent in Ain Issa saw dozens of armed SDF fighters heading on vehicles towards the frontline.

The long-awaited operation comes two years after IS seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared its cross-border "caliphate".

The jihadists have suffered a string of territorial defeats in recent months and are under pressure on multiple fronts.

After launching an offensive on Mosul on October 17, Iraqi special forces pushed into the city on Friday and have been facing stiff resistance from the jihadists. READ MORE