IS conflict: US forces support new assault near Raqqa stronghold


An Iraqi soldier walks past an IS flag in Mosul, file photoImage copyright
Reuters

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Rex Tillerson said it was the “policy of the US to demolish and destroy this barbaric terrorist organisation”

US forces are helping coalition allies in a new assault on a key area in the IS stronghold of Raqqa province in Syria, the Pentagon has confirmed.

US-supported fighters have been airlifted by the American military in a bid to retake Tabqa dam.

The development came as a US-led coalition met in Washington to discuss the battle against IS.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was “only a matter of time” until IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed.

Wednesday’s gathering at the State Department was the first summit of the full 68-member group since December 2014.

‘Cut IS off’

The Pentagon said US aircraft had dropped allied Syrian rebel infantry forces near Tabqa, 45km (28 miles) west of Raqqa, on the Euphrates River.

It said the aim was to seize the dam, which provides regional electricity. There is also a military airfield and a prison holding IS hostages there.

Spokesman Eric Pohan would not say how many US personnel were involved, but told the Associated Press that no American troops were engaged in front-line fighting.

He said the dam was “significant as a strategic target” whose capture would “basically cut IS off” from western approaches to Raqqa city.

The US allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, said their fighters had seized four villages south of the Euphrates. The aim was both to capture Tabqa and to curb advances by Syrian government advances in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr Tillerson told the coalition that the US was “ready to grow stronger and stay aggressive in this battle” against so-called Islamic State.

It was the “policy of the US to demolish and destroy this barbaric terrorist organisation”, he said.

Mr Tillerson told the summit that the coalition should be encouraged by the progress it was making.

He said the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq was down by 90% over the past year.

“It is harder for terrorists to get in and more importantly harder for them to get out to threaten our homelands,” Mr Tillerson said.


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He said that “nearly all” of the deputies of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were now dead.

“It is only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets this same fate,” Mr Tillerson said.

He said the coalition was still in the military phase but that this would be followed by a stabilisation phase, then a normalisation phase.

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AP

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Mr Tillerson said the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq was being severed

Mr Tillerson told the summit: “The United States will do its part, but the circumstances on the ground require more from all of you.

“I ask each country to examine how it can best support these vital stabilisation efforts.”

Separately, at least 33 people were killed in an air strike on a school in a village west of Raqqa on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

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Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently

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An activist group posted a photograph of what it said was the destroyed school in al-Mansoura, west of Raqqa

It believed the raid was carried out US-led coalition jets. The coalition has made no immediate comment.

It did say there had been 19 air strikes near Raqqa on Monday, including three that destroyed IS “headquarters”, and that there were another 18 on Tuesday.


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