BEIRUT: A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance is advancing against the Daesh group in the key town of Tabqa near the jihadist bastion of Raqqa in northern Syria, a monitor said Sunday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces now control at least 40 percent of the town of Tabqa, and more than half of its heart, the Old City, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said fighting was continuing in the town on Sunday morning.
The SDF entered Tabqa on Monday as part of their offensive against Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto Syrian capital.
Supported by US-led coalition air strikes and special forces advisers, the SDF surrounded Tabqa in early April.
The town sits on a strategic supply route about 55 kilometers (34 miles) west of Raqqa, and served as an important Daesh command base, housing the group’s main prison.
It is also adjacent to the Tabqa dam, another important strategic prize which remains under Daesh control.
The assault on Tabqa began in late March when SDF forces and their US-led coalition allies were airlifted behind Daesh lines.
The city was home to around 240,000 residents before 2011, and more than 80,000 people have fled to it from other parts of the country.
Daesh has put up fierce resistance, including using weaponized drones, a tactic the group perfected in neighboring Iraq.
The group is also fighting street-to-street and using suicide attackers and car bombs to slow the SDF’s advance, according to the Observatory.
The assault on Raqqa, dubbed “Wrath of the Euphrates,” was launched in November and has seen SDF fighters capture large swathes of countryside around the city.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country’s war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
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