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US-backed Syrian alliance moves to liberate Raqqa from 'Islamic State'

An alliance of Syrian militias, including the Kurdish-led YPG, have begun the third phase to liberate Raqqa from the "Islamic State." The militants have attempted to secure gains in Syria as it loses territory in Iraq.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of US-backed militias, on Saturday announced a new phase in its campaign to reclaim Raqqa from the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militant group.

The alliance, which includes the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG), said the international coalition against the "Islamic State" have provided aerial coverage and special forces on the ground to aid in the operation.

The SDF's latest maneuvers mark the continuation of an operation to encircle Raqqa and cut off the militant group from other territories under its control.

SDF spokeswoman Cihan Sheikh Ehmed said the third phase of "Operation Wrath of Euphrates" aims to complete the encirclement of the city and sever the main highway to the "Islamic State"-stronghold Deir al-Zor province.

Last week, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order requesting the Pentagon and defense officials to submit a tentative plan for defeating the "Islamic State" within 30 days.

Hundreds of US special forces troops have supported the SDF in northern Syria since the alliance launched its operation to liberate Raqqa in November.

The "Islamic State" has attempted to secure its gains in Syria after losing territory in Iraq, where an Iraq-led operation to liberate Mosul has proven to be a challenge for the militant group.

"IS" rose to notoriety in 2014, when it took over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, culminating in the occupation of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

The SDF's announcement comes a day after the US-led coalition destroyed two bridges used by the militant group near Raqqa.

ls/bw (Reuters, AP)

 

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