US-backed Syrian militia forms civilian council to run Raqqa
The Syrian Democratic Forces – which comprise Kurds and Arabs fighting against IS – said local officials had been setting up the council for six months.
Reuters reported last month that the political wing of the SDF was helping to install a civilian council to run the eastern Syrian city, IS's base of operations in Syria.
A preparatory committee met "with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it," the SDF said in a statement.
Spokesman Talal Selo said the SDF would "provide all the support" and had already turned over some towns around Raqqa city to the council after driving out IS militants.
The extent of Kurdish control in Raqqa's future is sensitive both for residents and for Ankara, which has fought a three-decade Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey and fears growing YPG ascendancy just over the border in northern Syria.
The United States says a final decision has yet to be made on how and when Raqqa will be captured. But the SDF is pressing its assault near the city to isolate and ultimately take Raqqa while plans for civilian rule take shape.
The establishment of a local council allied to the SDF in Raqqa could expand a sphere of Kurdish influence that has grown in northern Syria during the six-year, multi-sided conflict. It would mirror governing arrangements put in place in the Manbij area after the SDF repelled IS.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, which include a large contingent from the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, has advanced towards Raqqa with the help of airstrikes and special forces from the US-led coalition.
Syria's conflict began in 2011 with anti-government protests, but has since turned into a multi-front war that has killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.