Fierce fighting in Islamic State-held Syrian city

The SDF says intense fighting is underway in central Raqqa, adding that its fighters have taken positions near a centuries-old mosque.

17 July 2017 | 14:14

Source: Associated Press

  • Source: Associated Press
  • Last update: 17 July 2017 | 14:14

In this undated file photo released online in the summer of 2014 on a militant social media account, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: U.S.-backed Syrian fighters clashed Monday with Islamic State militants in the heart of Raqqa, the extremists' self-styled capital, as scores of civilians fled areas controlled by the group.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, aided by the U.S.-led coalition, launched their offensive to capture the city on June 6, and have since taken several areas. The Kurdish-led group has been one of the most effective forces in fighting IS in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday's fighting is concentrated in the southwestern neighborhood of Yarmouk as well as a central area close to the Old City.

The SDF says intense fighting is underway in central Raqqa, adding that its fighters have taken positions near a centuries-old mosque known as the Old Mosque.

The SDF said 11 IS fighters have been killed in the clashes since Sunday. The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said 14 SDF fighters were killed in the fighting in Raqqa on Sunday alone.

The intensification of fighting comes a week after Iraqi forces declared victory against IS in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest the extremists have held. The loss of Raqqa would deal a major blow to IS, but the group still holds wide areas of the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, bordering Iraq.

The Kurdish-run Hawar news agency says some 180 civilians were able to flee areas controlled by IS, while the Observatory put the number in the hundreds.

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