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US-backed Syria force has ousted IS from half of Raqa: Monitor

IS first seized Raqa in early 2014, and the city has since become synonymous with the group's most gruesome atrocities. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Beirut, Lebanon Jul 26, 2017, 07.48 PM (IST)

A US-backed alliance has ousted Islamic State group jihadists from half of their Syrian bastion Raqa, a monitor said Wednesday, less than two months after its fighters entered the city.

"The Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of 50 percent of Raqa city despite the fierce resistance mounted by IS," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The SDF's Arab and Kurdish fighters broke into Raqa on June 6 after spending months chipping away at jihadist-held territory around the northern Syrian city.

They have since steadily advanced in a pincer-like motion, closing in on the city centre.

The SDF assault has been backed by air strikes, special forces advisers, equipment and weapons from the US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

But IS has fought back using car bombs, suicide attacks and weaponised drones.

IS first seized Raqa in early 2014, and the city has since become synonymous with the group's most gruesome atrocities.

It carried out public beheadings and is also thought to have used Raqa as a hub for planning attacks overseas.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the escalating violence, and the United Nations estimates that up to 50,000 people are still trapped inside the city.

More than 330,000 people have lost their lives in Syria since the country's multi-party conflict broke out with anti-government protests in March 2011.

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