At least 17 civilians killed in US-led coalition strikes on Raqqa, suburbs: monitor
At least 17 civilians were killed on Thursday night in US-led coalition strikes on the Islamic State group's Syrian bastion Raqqa and the surrounding area, a monitor said.
"At least 17 civilians were killed during the night in US-led coalition strikes on Raqqa city and its suburbs," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
Dozens were injured and the death toll could rise higher, he warned.
The monitor said there were at least 25 strikes, with most of the civilians killed as the planes hit an internet cafe in the western suburb of Jazra.
The airstrikes came after US-backed fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled deeper into Raqqa, two days after finally entering following a months-long struggle to surround the city.
On Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces - a militia made up of Arab and Kurdish fighters - finally broke into Raqqa's eastern al-Meshleb district. This progress was followed by the capture of the neighbourhood and the Harqal citadel to the west of the city on Wednesday morning, the command of Operation Wrath of the Euphrates said.
The citadel is situated on a hilltop just two kilometers from the city limits.
Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon said "hundreds" of US military personnel were taking part in the Raqqa offensive. It was unclear how many were US special forces, and Pahon said the role of such troops remained unchanged.
"They are still advising and assisting" the SDF, he said, saying US troops were accompanying SDF units moving into the city but "the SDF have the lead in the fight".
Pahon said up to 2,500 IS fighters were still holed up in Raqqa.
After Raqqa was captured by IS in 2014, the city became notorious for the group's execcutions, public beheadings and displays of victims' bodies.
It is also thought that the city became a hub for planning the extremist group's attacks abroad.
Around 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.
In recent months, thousands have fled the intensification of fighting and US-led airstrikes that have claimed civilian lives.
The UN humanitarian office said on Tuesday that about 160,000 still remain in the northern city.