Syrian army, allied fighters capture IS stronghold, advance on Raqqa

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-05 16:24:28|Editor: MJ
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DAMASCUS, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Military forces targeting Islamic State (IS) are pushing towards Raqqa, the de facto capital of the terrorist group, after capturing an IS stronghold on Sunday.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor group, the Syrian army and allied fighters on Sunday captured the last IS stronghold, the town of Maskanah, in the northern province of Aleppo.

Located in the southeastern countryside of Aleppo, Maskanah is the latest victory in a string of successful operations of the army and its allies to end the presence of IS in Aleppo.

The Observatory added that the IS fighters and their families withdrew from the town before the army could place a full siege on it, after cutting the road between the town and the northern province of Raqqa, which the IS has used as a hub to plan attacks abroad.

The wide-scale military offensive in the countryside of Aleppo was unleashed on Jan. 17, after the army forces wrested back control over the entire city of Aleppo.

The Syrian army is also active in the Syrian desert against the IS, capturing large swathes of territories from the designated terrorist group.

Besides, U.S.-backed Syrian militias said they have recaptured a major dam on the Euphrates river from IS on Sunday, their latest gain as they push towards Raqqa city.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, said they got the Baath Dam in the morning. The hydroelectric facility lies 22 kilometers upstream of Raqqa, where IS's operations in Syria are based.

The advance means the SDF hold all three major dams along the Euphrates, after gaining control of Syria's largest dam last month.

Reports said on Sunday that with air strikes and special forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF have been encircling Raqqa.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the military branch of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), started a U.S.-backed offensive on Raqqa on June 2.

But the U.S.-led coalition in Syria rejected the claim later in the day.