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Backed Syrian fighters advancing toward IS-held Raqqa

Backed Syrian fighters advancing toward IS-held Raqqa

Raqqa lies on the northern side of the river.

A USA -backed operation by Syrian forces to capture Raqqa from Islamic State (IS) group will start in the coming "few days" after advances to the outskirts of the city, the spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Saturday.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said they were in control of 90 per cent of the town of Mansoura, approximately 26 kilometres south-west of Raqqa.

The SDF launched an operation to capture Raqqa last November, and has since surrounded the city from the north and east while closing in from the west.

"The forces reached the outskirts of the city, and the major operation will start in the coming few days", YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told news agency Reuters.

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"We will begin in a few days", said Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, spokeswoman for the SDF's "Wrath of the Euphrates" operation to capture Raqa.

This advancement allowed the SDF to "extend their control on the southern banks of the Euphrates River where they have controlled more than 50km of the southern bank of the river", the Observatory stated.

SDF fighters are now just a few kilometers from the city on the north, east and western fronts, with all major routes into the city severed.

The United States said on Tuesday it had started distributing arms to the YPG to help take Raqqa, part of a plan that has angered NATO-ally Turkey, which is anxious by growing Kurdish influence in northern Syria.

Raqqa's size poses a new challenge for the SDF, who have captured smaller towns and strongholds from the ISIS group in northern Syria.

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Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

The US has backed the SDF with weapons, air power, and ground support in its campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria.

"The battle will not be easy", Mahmoud said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, condemned Isis for using civilians as human shields but cautioned: "It is far from clear that the fundamental principles of global law are being properly adhered to by all the various air forces engaged in the fight against Isis".

Last Thursday, 35 civilians were killed by airstrikes on the IS-held city of Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Police responding to three separate incidents in London
Witness Holly Jones told the BBC a white van careened off the road and struck as many as six people on London Bridge . Andrew said he raced through Borough Market , shouting at people inside the bars to run and escape the scene.


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