US-aided Syrian forces start IS-captured Raqqa offensive
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters hold up their weapons in the north of Raqqa city. Photograph: (Reuters)
A US-backed attack by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to capture the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State began on Monday, the SDF militia told Reuters.
"The campaign started yesterday to liberate Raqqa city," SDF spokesman Talal Silo said from Syria in a telephone interview. He said the attack had started from the north, east and west of the city.
The SDF is expected to hold a news conference later on Tuesday.
The multi-ethnic SDF, in a press release sent to WION, said the forces have encouraged civilians to depart Raqqa so that they are not used as human shields by Islamic State during the military offensive.
If Islamic State is flushed out of Raqqa, their so-called capital of the Caliphate, it would hugely undercut their influence and demoralise their fighters.
The coalition forces had started the operation to drive Islamic State out of Raqqa in November.
Lieutenant General Steve Townsend, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but the offensive would deliver a decisive blow to the idea of IS as a physical caliphate: "It's hard to convince new recruits that IS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin 'capitals' in both Iraq and Syria."
"We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England," said Townsend. "ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq and Syria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand."
(WION with inputs from Reuters)