Syrian Democratic Forces Clash With Islamic State In Raqqa

Syrian Democratic Forces Clash With Islamic State In Raqqa
File photo

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters on Tuesday clashed with Islamic State militants in the eastern neighbourhood of al-Mishlab, Raqqa.

Fighters engage the militants in heavy gunfire and extracted a person – who is said to be an Islamic State fighter – out of a pile of rubble.

An alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting under the banner of the SDF is trying to oust Islamic State from its headquarters in Raqqa.

The SDF pushed into Raqqa in June after a long offensive backed up by air strikes and Special Forces from the U.S.-led coalition.

Syrian Militias Make Slight Progress In Attack On Islamic State

Islamic StateU.S-backed Syrian armed groups have captured a number of villages in the first days of an offensive to retake the city of Raqqa from Islamic State militants, a war monitor and a Kurdish source said on Monday.

The ground forces are being supported by airstrikes mounted by a U.S.-led coalition, the source said. But he predicted the battle to drive IS from their Raqqa, their main stronghold in Syria, would “not be easy”.

The operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and some Arab groups, began on Saturday and aims to encircle and ultimately capture Raqqa. It should add to the pressure on IS as it faces a major assault on its Iraqi bastion of Mosul.

The attack, named “Euphrates Anger” so far appears focused on areas north of Raqqa, south of the town of Ain Issa, 50 km (30 miles) away.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors the multi-sided Syrian conflict, said the SDF forces had so far captured a number of IS positions but there had been “no real progress”.

The Kurdish source said a number of villages had been captured. IS had set off five car bombs as part of their defense, he said.

“It is difficult to put a time frame on the operation at present. The battle will not be easy,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S.-led coalition was providing “excellent” air support, he added.

The SDF has been the main ally on the ground in Syria for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, capturing swathes of northern Syria.

The coalition said on Monday the SDF, supported by coalition air and advisory support, had begun the operation to isolate Raqqa.

“The isolation of Raqqa, when complete, will liberate strategically valuable terrain surrounding Raqqa and enable the liberation of the city,” Commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said.

The operation will also cut off Islamic State militants from Mosul as Iraqi forces simultaneously try to take back that city, Townsend said.

Planning for the Raqqa assault has been complicated by factors including the concerns of neighboring Turkey, which does not want to see any further expansion of Kurdish influence in northern Syria.

Additionally, Raqqa is a predominantly Arab city, and Syrian Kurdish officials have previously said it should be freed from IS by Syrian Arab groups, not the Kurdish YPG.

UK MPs To Vote On Syria Bombing

UK MPs To Vote On Syria BombingIn a fresh bid to completely defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), British Members of Parliament will meet later on Wednesday, whether to back UK air trikes in Syria.

A 10-hour house of commons debate will culminate in a vote on whether the UK should join the US, France, Russia and other bombing targets in Raqqa, the group’s stronghold, and other areas.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said ISIS is a threat to Britain’s security.

But Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, opposed bombing the group in Syria though, he has given MPs a free vote amid divisions within his own ranks.

With up to 50 Labour MPs likely to back the government both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Liberal Democrats are also giving their backing, Mr Cameron is expected to win parliamentary approval for the UK to intervene militarily in the four-year conflict in Syria.

The government said that military action is “only one component of a broader strategy” to tackle ISIS and the UK government would not deploy troops on the ground.

The Prime Minister is likely to face tough questions about the scope of air strikes, their likely impact and how they fit into the strategy of helping to stabilise and rebuild Syria.

Mr Cameron has been asked to explain his claim that there are 70,000 “moderate” ground forces able to fight ISIS in Syria.

France PM Warns Of More Attacks To Come

paris attacksFrench Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has warned that new terror attacks are being planned in France and other European countries.

He also said that Friday’s attacks by Islamist militants in Paris were planned and organised from Syria.

A total of 129 people died in the attacks on bars and restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France while 352 others were injured. According to the persecutor, 99 others are in critical condition.

France is to hold a nationwide minute of silence at midday local time for the victims, the BBC reported.

A huge manhunt is under way for surviving members and accomplices of the Islamist group that carried out the attack.

Meanwhile, two more attackers have been named, as well as the five already identified.

Conducting Raids

Police have named Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, as a key suspect. He was reportedly stopped by officers in the wake of the attacks – but then let go.

Meanwhile, French aircraft have started retaliatory attacks in Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State group in Syria, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks.

Mr Valls said that France was dealing with a “terrorist army”, rather than a single terrorist group.

“We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too,” Mr Valls said.

Security forces are conducting raids across France and Belgium.

French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said that 168 raids have been conducted in eight different locations, with arms and cash retrieved.

Authorities said they sieized a rocket launcher in the city of Lyon in one of the raids.

Jihadi John: Pentagon Air Strike Targets IS Militant In Syria

Pentagon Air Strike Targets IS Militant In SyriaIt seems justice may have caught up with Jihadi John as the US forces carried out an air strike targeting him.

John is the Islamic State (IS) militant who appeared in several execution videos dressed in a black robe with a black hood covering his face.

Also known as Mohammed Emwazi, the Kuwaiti-born British militant, was the target of an attack near Raqqa, in Syria as it was believed that there was at least one person in the vehicle.

According to BBC, the UK government said it was “working hand in glove with the Americans” to “hunt down those murdering hostages”.

While a US official said Emwazi had been “tracked carefully over a period of time”, another source maintained that there was a “high degree of certainty”.

The Pentagon says it is still assessing whether Emwazi had been killed in Thursday’s attack.

A worldwide hunt had been launched for Emwazi after he was seen in videos of the beheading of western hostages.

Syria Crisis: IS Re-enters Kurdish Town Of Kobane

isThe Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have reported the killing of several people in a fierce battle in the center of the town on Syrian-Turkish border.

Islamic State (IS) fighters re-entered the Syrian town of Kobane, months after being driven out in a long battle with Kurdish troops.

Kurdish forces in the early part of the year drove IS forces from Kobane, after a long campaign backed by US-led air strikes.

IS has suffered a string of defeats to Kurdish forces since it was forced to withdraw from Kobane in January, after a four-month battle.

According to reports, early this week, a Kurdish Protection Units, YPG forces, said they had captured a key town, Ain Issa, which is 50km (30 miles) from the IS headquarters at Raqqa.

Kobane is a city in Syria, also known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic, and the villages surrounding it were home to about 400,000 people, most of whom were Kurds.

Australia Arrest Warrant For ‘IS Medic’ Tareq Kamleh

kamlehAs Australia continues its war against terror, authorities have issued an arrest warrant for an Australian Doctor who traveled to Syria and is believed to be working with the Islamic State (IS).

Tareq Kamleh appeared in an IS propaganda video in April, urging other Doctors to join him.

In the video he was quoted as saying “I saw this as part of my Jihad for Islam to help the Muslims in the area that I could, which is in the medical field”.

The warrant was issued by a court in South Australia,  means Mr Kamleh can be arrested upon his return.

Police allege Mr Kamleh is a member of and recruited for a terrorist organisation, he entered a designated hot-spot.

Report says the warrant was issued on the basis of offences allegedly committed in April in the de-facto IS capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Anti-terror laws were recently strengthened making it a crime to travel to designated terror hot-spots.

Before joining ISIS, Mr Kamleh worked in hospitals in South Australia and the northern territory.

ISIS: American Hostage Kayla Muller Killed In Syria Bombing

isisIslamic State ISIS militants claimed on Friday that a US female hostage, Kayla Muller, has been killed in a Jordan air strike in Syria.

Report says that the woman died during air strikes on Raqqa. Ms Mueller was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped in 2013.

Jordan said it carried out aerial bombardments on ISIS targets in Syria on Thursday. The strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a Jordanian fighter pilot by ISIS militants.

The US state department said it could not confirm the reports, but “people are looking into them”.

A video of Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage was posted online by ISIS earlier this week. He was captured by militants in December after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Syria. The video is believed to have been filmed on 3 January.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Thursday’s strikes were “the beginning of our retaliation” against ISIS. He also said, “We’re upping the ante. We’re going after them wherever they are, with everything that we have,” he said.

Thousands rallied in Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Friday morning in support of their government’s military response.

ISIS reported on Twitter that, “The criminal Crusader coalition aircraft bombarded a site outside the city of Ar-Raqqah today at noon while the people were performing the Friday prayer.

The report remains unconfirmed and a person close to the case, who has spoken to the hostage’s family, said her parents had not been notified by the White House or other official sources.

According to the ISIS site, a group that monitors online jihadi messages, the Islamic State reported on Twitter that Mueller, of Prescott, Ariz., “was killed when she was buried beneath the rubble of the building”.