US-backed Syrian militia cuts last IS route out of Raqqa


SDF says its forces have taken control of key supply route to Deir Ezzor, cutting all access routes out of Raqqa

SDF forces rest on the frontlines near Deir Ezzor in Syria (Reuters)
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Last update: 
Monday 6 March 2017 12:31 UTC

Syrian militias backed by the US-led coalition against Islamic State cut the road between the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor province in Syria on Monday, a Kurdish military source and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The advance by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) means all land routes out of Raqqa are now cut, and the only remaining way out is south across the Euphrates River, the Kurdish military source said.

"Cutting the road between Raqqa and Deir al-Zor means that practically the encirclement of the Daesh (Islamic State) capital is complete by land. It is a big victory but there is still a lot to accomplish," the source said.

The SDF includes the Kurdish YPG militia and allied Arab groups. 

Meanwhile, the militia group said the northern city of Manbij is under its protection after an increase in "Turkish threats" against the city.

Manbij has come into renewed focus since Turkey declared it the next target of the campaign it is waging with Syrian rebels in northern Syria to keep both Islamic State and Kurdish fighters away from its border.

The Manbij Military Council is part of the SDF. The Turkish government says the YPG remains in Manbij, though the YPG says it withdrew last year after the city was captured.

In a statement released late on Sunday, the Manbij Military Council said the US-led coalition had increased its presence in Manbij and the surrounding countryside "after the increase in Turkish threats to occupy the city".

"We in the Manbij Military Council confirm again that Manbij and its rural areas are under the protection of the Manbij Military Council and under the care of the international coalition and its protection," the council said.

Meanwhile, four Turkish soldiers were injured as Turkish positions in the vicinity of the recently taken town of al-Bab came under artillery fire from PYD-controlled Manbij, the Turkish news agency IHA reported Monday. 

The Turkish military responded and destroyed the YPG positions in Manbij from where the shells were fired. 

The four Turkish soldiers, specialist sergeants in an elite commando unit, were evacuated to the Turkish border town of Gaziantep for treatment.