Kurdish-led forces have made territorial gains in a campaign they launched last week to retake al-Raqqa, the Islamic State extremist militia’s de facto capital in Syria, a monitoring group reported on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have retaken control of 19 villages and farms in the rural north of al-Raqqa from Islamic State since the SDF on Sunday announced the start of the operation.
The SDF, which also comprises Arabs and other ethnic groups, said the attack is coordinated with a US-led air alliance.
Alliance jets Friday bombed Islamic State targets on the outskirts of al-Raqqa, the Observatory reported.
“The SDF forces are trying to move deeper into the northern countryside of al-Raqqa,” the watchdog’s head, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said.
“Their main aim is to secure safe roads for their fighters before the battle against the city of al-Raqqa starts,” he told dpa.
Kurdish sources said Friday their forces had opened “a safe passage” near the town of Ain Issa to help locals escape from areas where clashes are taking place between the SDF and Islamic State.
Ain Issa is located between the border town of Tel Abyad and al-Raqqa.
The campaign for al-Raqqa comes as Iraqi forces push into Islamic State’s key stronghold of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.