Kurdish-led Syrian forces launch assault on IS Raqqa stronghold

Kurdish-led Syrian forces launch assault on IS Raqqa stronghold
Kurdish and Syrian opposition fighters launched an offensive on Raqqa province on Tuesday, and said they hope to continue their attack until they capture IS' self-declared capital.
2 min read
24 May, 2016
Syrian Democratic Forces are leading the fight against IS in Raqqa [Getty]
Kurdish-led forces have launched a major offensive on the Islamic State group's Raqqa stronghold, militia members announced on Twitter.

The Syrian Democratic Forces named the offensive "the Northern Raqqa Liberation Campaign", and posted an image showing its fighters on the frontline.

"With the participation of all SDF units, we start this operation to liberate northern Raqqa," Rojda Felat, from the Democratic Syria Forces, said on Twitter.

"The Raqqa Liberation Brigade and the [Inherent Resolve] forces will accompany [the Syrian Democratic Forces] during the campaign. The campaign is aimed at repelling terrorist attacks on Shadadi, Tal Abyad and Kobane, ensuring the security of our people. We call on everyone to support the Northern Raqqa Liberation Campaign."

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units were also taking part in the assault, Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported.

The anti-IS coalition is making a three-pronged attack on IS forces in northern Raqqa. US-led air support is taking out IS defensive positions, the YPG told Rudaw.

The Inherent Resolve command has not yet confirmed their participation in the attack, but reports emerged this week that General Joseph Votel - head of US Central Command - recently paid a secret visit to anti-IS forces in Syria.

"Today, our forces headed to Raqqa," a source told Rudaw. "Our forces will be advancing to the villages of Fatse Big, Fatse Small and Tishi, in order to clear them of IS militants first."

He said that the coalition's ultimate aim was to capture Raqqa city - the IS group's defacto capital in Syria - although the intitial campaign appears concentrated on taking territories closer to the YPG's quasi-autonomous zone in northern Syria.

IS forces have reportedly laid mines and planted booby-trap explosives in the area, a typical move when its fighters withdraw from territories.

Meanwhile in Iraq, Iraqi forces have launched an offensive on the IS stronghold of Fallujah, with US aircraft providing aerial support.

Thousands of Iraqi troops and Shia militants are taking part in the attack, and fighters have re-captured several towns on the outskirts of Fallujah.