2,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa: Coalition official

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ISIS militants in Raqqa. File photo

ARA News

The United States’ anti-ISIS coalition envoy Brett McGurk has confirmed that a total of 2,000 ISIS fighters are left in Raqqa, adding that these jihadists will die in Raqqa, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their military operations against the radical group.

“We estimate there’s about 2,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa. I’m always hesitant to give numbers like that, because it’s – this is an inexact science. We think there’s about 2,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa, and they most likely will die in Raqqa,” the coalition envoy said.

“UN estimates now – there’s about 25,000 civilians on the ground in Raqqa. It could be higher, but that is a UN estimate. And what’s really happening in Raqqa – similar to what we saw in Mosul but on a smaller scale – the ISIS fighters on the ground are using these civilians as their own shields, as their own hostages,” he added.

“They are using snipers to kill civilians who are trying to escape. They’re trying to put suicide bombers in columns of displaced people as they try to get out – the similar tactics we’ve seen from this barbaric terrorist organization in other cities,” McGurk said.

However, he said the tactic of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces is now to connect the east to the west. “They could connect now, but they have to clear some high-rise buildings before they join forces at a roadway. And that’ll really help accelerate the second phase of the operation to clear the rest of the city.”

“Today in Raqqa, ISIS is fighting for every last block, and trying to defend blocks that they are about to lose. They are fighting for their own survival. It is a fundamentally transformed situation. The Raqqa operation to seize Raqqa launched on June 6th, and as of today, as I mentioned, the SDF has seized about 45 percent of Raqqa,” he concluded.

Moreover, the US official said that the majority of the civilians flee to SDF-held areas.

“So as IDPs come out of areas that have been controlled by ISIS – these are people who have been living under ISIS for the last three years – we are seeing almost all of the IDPs flow north into the lines of the force we’re working with,” he said.

“They are not flowing west into regime areas; they are not leaving to go stay with ISIS in the east; they are not flowing south into the desert. They are all coming into the areas of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” he added.

According to the US official there are now around 324,000 IDPs from Raqqa.

“We track this every single day. As of this morning, about 146,000 are in prepared sites and camps, about 177 or so thousand in communities. And what we see in Syria, as the population comes out from areas where the fighting is ongoing, they sit in transit camps. And as the areas are cleared, as they’re de-mined, the population then returns. We have seen this now repeatedly this pattern, which is a pretty good pattern,” he stated.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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