RAQQA – Militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) have intensified security measures and deployed hundreds of militants in the surroundings of Syria’s northeastern Raqqa city, the de facto capital for the ISIS self-declared Caliphate.
This comes just days after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced a plan to storm Raqqa in a bid to expel ISIS from its main bastion in Syria.
“ISIS leadership decided to prepare its forces in order to repel a possible attack by the US-backed SDF troops on Raqqa. The group has moved its security headquarters to confidential locations inside Raqqa, beside deploying hundreds of fighters in the city suburbs,” a local media activist told ARA News, speaking on condition of anonymity for security concerns.
The source quoted an ISIS military commander saying: “We are prepared to protect Raqqa against any offensives by the crusader coalition and their mercenaries [in reference to Kurdish-led SDF troops].”
The radical group has also ordered members of the Sharia courts and Islamic police to join its military forces to protect Raqqa, according to local sources.
SDF officer Hebun Osman told ARA News that the preparations for launching the battle for Raqqa are still ongoing, adding that retaking Raqqa would be the first step to eliminate ISIS in Syria.
Speaking to ARA News in an exclusive interview, official spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Talal Silo said that the battle for Raqqa “is going to be difficult”, and that they might start it by carrying out an operation to liberate parts of the Raqqa countryside.
“Because it [Raqqa] is a stronghold for the ISIS, whenever we have liberated territories the Arab tribes would join us, and now there is preparation to form a military council for Raqqa, as what we did for Manbij city,” Silo said.
Kurdish officials told ARA News that Raqqa could either join the future federal region for northern Syria and Rojava, or could have an independent local administration, similar to the local canton administrations that are now running the Kurdish areas of Syria.
According to US-led coalition sources, the Islamic State radical group has recently declared a state of emergency in Raqqa.
“[ISIS militants] understand that their days are increasingly numbered. We are going to continue to keep this pressure on them, and we expect to see them collapse eventually,” said Col. Steve Warren, US-led coalition’s spokesman.
Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi
Source: ARA News
For the latest news follow us on Twitter
Join our Weekly Newsletter