RAQQA, Syria (Kurdistan24) – The US-backed Kurdish-Arab Alliance forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria on Monday claimed to have liberated several villages in the southern countryside of Raqqa.
Apart from the siege on the city of Raqqa, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a statement said they have crossed the Euphrates and liberated seven villages in the southern countryside of Raqqa.
“Our forces liberated Ajaj village, southeast of Raqqa, in addition to Kasrat Mohammad and Ratla in the south after several days of fierce clashes,” the SDF stated.
They reported killing seven IS militants and destroyed a massive vehicle bomb in Ajaj village.
The SDF fighters also killed 17 IS militants in Kasrat Mohammad village.
After the SDF, along with the Syrian Elite Forces operating under the Syrian Free Army umbrella group, began their siege on Raqqa last week, the SDF opened up a new front crossing the Euphrates River and expanding south of Raqqa.
SDF fighter Ahmad Ali told Kurdistan24 that advancing south to the Euphrates is "not aimed at gaining more territories," but at "protecting the southern borders with IS."
“The villages and towns in South Raqqa are strategic bases for Daesh [IS] terrorists who may use them to mount counter attacks,” he said.
Regarding other fronts on Raqqa, SDF media officer Mustafa Bali told Kurdistan24 their forces, along with the Syrian Elite Forces, were tightening the noose on IS in the city.
“Our forces took control of the remaining parts of the 17-Division base in northern Raqqa,” he said, referring to a military base belonging to the Syrian Army and later taken by IS when it overran Raqqa in 2014.
Bali pointed out that more than fifty IS militants were killed in the city after the SDF besieged the city last week.
He added that SDF fighters had seized an ancient palace, Qasr al-Banat, in the eastern part of the Old City.
Last month, the SDF, of which the Kurdish YPG is a key component, launched an operation backed by the US-led anti-IS coalition, to retake the city of Raqqa, and de facto capital of the self-declared 'Caliphate,' from IS.
Editing by G.H. Renaud