ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Nearly 2,000 Islamic State (IS) militants are estimated to remain in Syria’s Raqqa as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continues to advance in liberating the city from the militant group, said a US official on Friday.
Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the US-led coalition against IS, told reporters the Kurdish-led SDF had liberated almost 45 percent of Raqqa, IS’ stronghold in Syria, since the launch of the offensive in June.
“Today, in Raqqa, [IS] is fighting for every last block…and fighting for their own survival,” he said.
McGurk mentioned almost 2,000 IS militants remained in the city, stating they were likely to be killed in Raqqa.
The US envoy explained the extremist group had lost 70,000 square kilometers of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.
According to the US official, IS had lost 78 percent of the land it occupied in Iraq and 58 percent in Syria.
McGurk noted coalition forces had surrounded the IS-controlled territory to make sure the group’s foreign fighters would not be able to escape from both countries.
He also said that with the Turkish forces’ cooperation, the entire Syrian – Turkish border had been sealed.
IS militants cannot leave the country to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe or elsewhere in the world, McGurk added.
According to the US envoy, the coalition has compiled a database of some 19,000 names of IS extremists which have been gathered from cell phones and documents found on the battlefield to share with Interpol, the international police agency.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany