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Syrian Democratic Forces commanders announce the impending assault on the Islamic State. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

Kurdish-led force announces start of operation to reclaim Raqqa from ISIS

WT24 Desk

A Kurdish-led force in Syria backed by the United States announced Sunday the start of a major military operation to drive Islamic State militants out of their self-declared capital of Raqqa in northeastern Syria, The Washington Post reports.

The operation declared by the Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, coincides with the U.S.-supported military effort to seize the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State. And the impending assault by the SDF — a compilation of Kurdish and Arab forces that has dealt substantial blows to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria — represents an intensified international effort to increase pressure on the extremist group as it loses control of vast territory in Iraq and Syria.

The impending assault risks aggravating regional tensions. Turkey, in particular, views with great suspicion the role of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in the SDF, which is backed by a U.S.-led military coalition with training, arms and air support.

“Our hope is that the Turkish state will not interfere in the internal affairs of Syria,” an unidentified SDF official said at the news conference announcing the military operation, according to Reuters. “Raqqa will be free by its own sons.”

 By Sunday afternoon, SDF forces did not appear to make any major advances, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.“It has not formally started yet. This is just an announcement,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who heads the observatory.

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