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IS in Raqqa to be isolated soon, says coalition Open in fullscreen

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IS in Raqqa to be isolated soon, says coalition

Coalition-backed SDF forces are closing in on Raqqa [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2017

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The Islamic State group-held city of Raqqa will soon be isolated from the rest of the world, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the militant group said Wednesday.

The Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed capital, will soon be isolated from the rest of the world, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the militant group said Wednesday.

Although it will not be completely encircled, "it will be very difficult to get into or out of the city," Colonel John Dorrian said in a video conference from Baghdad.

"What we would expect is that within the next few weeks the city will be nearly completely isolated," Dorrian said.

The coalition has been gradually tightening a vice on IS in Iraq and Syria.

US-backed Iraqi forces have recovered a large part of the Iraqi city of Mosul, although the city's western districts have yet to be retaken. Raqqa is the coalition's next big objective.

The coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have launched an offensive on Raqqa, advancing on the city from the north.

But the issue of who exactly will assault the predominantly Arab city has not yet been worked out.

Turkey has expressed interest in taking part in the operation, with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicating that his country is ready to deploy special forces to take part in the battle.

Turkey opposes giving added weight to the Arab-Kurdish SDF coalition, regarding it as little more than a front for the Kurdish YPG militant group, which Ankara considers a terror organisation.

"We have said for many months the US would be open to a Turkish role," Dorrian said.

Turkey already has troops in northern Syria, having launched an offensive in the area in August against IS and Kurdish militants.

After a rapid advance, the Turkish army, which was acting in support of Syrian rebel groups, has been embroiled in recent weeks in deadly combat around Al-Bab, in northern Syria.

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