Syria: U.S.-backed forces infiltrate IS Raqqa

Exclusive to The Middle East Online

Edited by Nelly Tawil

A Syrian town situated near the Turkish border that has been held by Islamic State (IS) militants for over two years has been infiltrated by U.S.-backed Syrian forces after a three-week-long battle with the terror group around the town.

The Syrian Observatory for Humans Rights stated that the U.S.-led coalition provided aerial support on Thursday when Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces, advanced towards Manbij.

“Clashes are taking place on the southern side of the city,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory told VOA via phone from Britain.

“Two things are preventing the SDF to take full control of the city — civilians who are being used by Daesh (IS) and booby traps that the group has planted all over the city,” he said.

Manbij is a key supply route for between the Turkish border and Raqqa for IS, the town of Raqqa is the extremist’s group’s self-proclaimed capital, which is also under intense pressure from a Syrian government offensive. The capture of Manjib would be considered as the biggest strategic defeat for IS in Syria since July 2015 when it lost the border town of Tal Abyad, delivering a significant blow to the group.

“We’re around the city and we’re coming in, and we’ve cut the lines of communication into it and the noose is getting tighter around the city,” U.S. Army Colonel Chris Garver told reporters Wednesday from Baghdad.

At least 20,000 people are still held by IS militants inside the town, local sources said.

The campaign to liberate Manbij began three weeks ago and at least 520 IS fighters were killed, according to Kurdish military officials.

Manbij had been one of the major supply lines for IS militants in areas they control in northern Syria. Local activists say pushing back IS from the town would be a significant setback for the terror group in Syria.