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Syrian Kurdish-Arab force 'surround' IS' last stronghold before Raqqa

Tabqa Dam has been a hotspot of fighting [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 April, 2017

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Syrian Democratic Forces have reportedly surrounded the IS-held town of Tabqa, the last stop before the jihadi group's self-declared capital, Raqqa.
Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters have reportedly surrounded the town of Tabqa, one of the last strongholds of the Islamic State group before its self-declared "capital" Raqqa.

Fierce firefights continued Saturday between US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and IS militants around Tabqa and the nearby airport.

The mostly Kurdish group say they have surrounded the northern Syrian town and fought back jihadi counter-attacks in the area.

Two SDF units linked up in a pincer movement to surround Tabqa, according to Kurdish activists on social media, while the force confirmed they had encircled Tabqa according to Iraqi-Kurdish media.

"After the failure of the terrorists on Saturday morning, the terrorists resumed their attack to break out in the afternoon," the SDF stated according to Rudaw.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that fierce fighting continued around the airport with IS militants killed, but that SDF forces were yet to completely encircle Tabqa.

US-led coalition air raids on Tabqa have killed around 13 IS fighters and many civilians in recent days, according to the observatory, as SDF forces look to take the final IS stronghold before Raqqa city.

Some militants have attempted to break out of the town, while other observers say that IS fighters holed up in Tabqa are putting up fierce resistance and using crack inghimasi commandos in counter-attacks.

SDF forces are now 2km from Tabqa, AFP reported on Saturday, with an assault on Raqqa expected shortly.

US-led air raids on IS territories have been stepped up in anticipation of the assault with the jihadi group's deputy commander reportedly killed in one bombing in neighbouring Iraq on Saturday.

The nearby Tabqa dam has been a fiercely contested spot between SDF forces and IS. Many fear the embattled jihadi force in control of the dam might flood surrounding areas to slow the advance of the US-led force.

SDF forces continued to close in on IS militants holding the dam, with IS reportedly "baiting" the fighters to damage the dam with shelling.


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