Coalition expects ‘tough fight’ in Raqqa: 2,500 ISIS militants to resist SDF forces

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Militants of the Islamic State during a military parade in Syria's Raqqa. File photo

ARA News

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that they have completely liberated two neighbourhoods in Raqqa with support of US-led coalition. But according to a coalition spokesperson around 2,500 ISIS fighters will give a tough resistance against the SDF.

“The SDF forces have made some steady progress in the first neighborhoods and have successfully been able to take ground from ISIS already in Raqqa. We expect to have the coalition continue to provide our intelligence, our surveillance, our reconnaissance, and our advisers will be with them throughout this engagement fight,” coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon said.

The SDF have liberated the neighborhoods of al-Mishlab and Sabahiya in Raqqa after launching a major operation for Raqqa on the 6th of June.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces have already gotten a foothold into the eastern part of Raqqa city center, and on the west side. To the north, they’re still about three kilometers to the north of Raqqa city,” the coalition spokesperson said.

“The SDF has moved to isolate the city of Raqqa with forces to the west, north, and east. To the south is the Euphrates River and with bridges that cannot be used to cross, ISIS is limited to using water craft to move in to or out of Raqqa. Understanding this the coalition conducted several strikes this week, destroying 20 boats, attempting to shuttle ISIS fighters across the river,” Colonel Dillon said.

The coalition backs up the SDF with HIMARS, Apaches and 777 howitzers. “Each one of those capabilities are being used for this operation to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, supporting our Syrian Democratic Forces.”

Moreover, the coalition spokesperson said that they estimate that there about 2,500 ISIS fighters in Raqqa.

“We expect this to be a fight very similar, not quite as built-up and as a dense urban terrain as we’ve seen in Mosul, but nonetheless ISIS has had almost three years to prepare for this fight, and we expect it to be very difficult, just as we’ve seen in Mosul,” he said about the operation.

Currently, the SDF forces are encouraging civilians to depart and leave Raqqa safely.

“As soon as they started the offensive, they have since encouraged civilians that remain inside of Raqqa to remain in their homes, shelter in place, and to avoid ISIS fighting positions. So, that is what the current guidance is from the SDF to civilians that remain inside of Raqqa,” the US Colonel said.

‘The liberation of Raqqa will deal the enemy a punishing blow and further degree their ability to move throughout the region and further spread terror and kill innocent civilians,” he said about the importance of the operation. “We know in the past that Raqqa has been a planning base, in particular for attacks in Paris and Berlin. Our goal is to defeat them, obviously, in Raqqa.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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