24 October 2017

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10/10/2017 SYRIA

Fight to Drive IS from Syria Bastion Raqa Nears End

The jihadists' self-described caliphate is crumbling. IS is believed to be holding civilians as human shields in the hospital, complicating efforts to capture the position. The militia has captured around 90 percent of Raqa since entering the city in June. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the city. 


Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - US-backed fighters say they are nearing the "final week" of their assault to drive the Islamic State group from their one-time Syrian bastion Raqa, as the jihadists' self-described caliphate crumbles.

Losing Raqa would be only the latest in a series of crushing defeats for the extremist group, which once controlled large swathes of territory spanning the border between Syria and Iraq.

Captured by IS in 2014, the northern city was the de facto Syrian capital of the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate" until the US-backed assault by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

The militia has captured around 90 percent of Raqa since entering the city in June, after months of fighting to encircle it.

They are now advancing on IS-held districts from two fronts in the city's north and east, said commander Rojda Felat, who heads the "Wrath of the Euphrates" campaign. 

Felat said fighting was still fierce along the front line, with IS using snipers, suicide bombers and reinforced positions in tunnels to hold up the SDF advance.

The jihadists still hold Raqa's national hospital, the nearby football stadium and surrounding residential neighbourhoods, including the infamous Al-Naim roundabout, where IS staged public beheadings and crucifixions.

IS is believed to be holding civilians as human shields in the hospital, complicating efforts to capture the position.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition backing the SDF's assault, said IS was using the hospital as a military base and it was "heavily fortified".

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled Raqa city and the surrounding area since the SDF began its offensive, but many others have remained trapped inside during the heavy fighting.

The loss of Raqa city would leave IS with just a handful of positions in Syria and Iraq.

The group was forced from Iraq's Mosul in July and last week was driven from Hawija, meaning it holds just a sliver of territory in the Euphrates Valley near the Syrian border.


See also

07/03/2017 10:19:00 SYRIA
Raqqa, the Islamic State force "Afghan-style" clothing to mingle combatants among civilians

Local activists report that the measure has been in force for over two weeks. Fines and imprisonment for those who do not respect the rule. The rapid advance of the Arab-Kurdish coalition, backed by US air raids, impels decision. Thousands of civilians and jihadist families fleeing the province of Aleppo.

23/10/2017 10:31:00 SYRIA - RUSSIA - USA
Moscow: The US campaign against Isis has erased Raqqa 'from the face of the earth'

The Syrian city suffered the same fate as Dresden at the end of World War II. UN investigation speaks of "shocking loss" of human lives among civilians. Washington replies: risk of collateral damage minimized. At least 270,000 displaced people, it will take months for their return.

19/10/2016 09:37:00 IRAQ
Chaldean Patriarch: May Iraq find peace and unity with the liberation of Mosul

The Christians of Qaraqosh, on the Nineveh Plain, celebrate the liberation of their town with Masses of thanksgiving, dancing and singing. Now in its third day, the Iraqi army and Peshmerga continues the offensive towards Mosul. The Islamic State use civilians as human shields. Mar Sako urges Iraqis to work for the birth of a "genuine and civil democracy".


09/03/2016 13:33:00 SYRIA
Caritas Syria: The country risks exploding and could even overwhelm Europe

Sandra Awad, head of the Catholic institution's communications in Syria, speaks of the loss of a volunteer killed by bombs and the daily suffering of an increasingly impoverished population. Peace must come "from within" and mercy is “increasingly needed”. Educational and support projects in favor of the poor, the elderly and children.

18/10/2016 09:52:00 IRAQ
Army and Peshmerga advance towards Mosul. UN fears civilians being used as human shields

Offensive continues to wrest the northern Iraqi metropolis from Islamic State. Kurdish militias have taken control of some villages in the Nineveh plain. Pentagon: conquest of the city" will take time". EU warns: the fleeing jihadists could fall back to the shores of Europe.


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