US-backed Syrian Kurds advance on northern Raqqa to seize IS-held territory

In this undated photo released Thursday, May 11, 2017, by Hawar News, the news agency for the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria, shows fighters from the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, patrolling on a street in Tabqa, northern Syria. Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are carrying out mine-clearing operations at the country’s largest dam and the nearby town of Tabqa a day after seizing them from Islamic State militants. Concerns were raised earlier this year that the dam could be damaged in the fighting or degraded by lack of maintenance, or that the extremists might sabotage it to flood the surrounding areas. (Hawar News Agency, via AP)

Monitors say Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by a U.S.-led air coalition, are battling Islamic State extremists on the northern outskirts of Raqqa, the IS de facto capital seized by the militant group three years ago.

The activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced within four kilometers of Raqqa as fighting raged at several points north and east of the besieged city.

An SDF spokesman, speaking Friday, said an anti-jihadist assault on the fortified northern city would most likely begin in the next several months.

The loosely knit anti-jihadist coalition pushing to liberate Raqqa includes SDF forces attacking from the north and rival Syrian ground forces backed by Shi’ite allies and Russia pressing toward the city from the south.

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