MS Risk Blog

US Official: 2000 IS Fighters Remain in Raqqa

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A senior United States official reported this month that some 2,000 Islamic State (IS) militants remain in the Syrian city of Raqqa, amidst an offensive to recapture the group’s stronghold. IS seized control of Raqqa in 2014, proclaiming it the capital of a “caliphate.”

According to Brett McGurk, special envoy for the coalition against IS, US-backed forces have seized about 45% of Raqq since the operation started in June, adding that the group is now fighting for its own survival and that the militants are likely to die in the city.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been gradually advancing on the city since November, and launched an offensive to take it on 6 June. While it currently remains unclear how many civilians are still in the city, the United Nations has estimate that the figure is between 20,000 and 50,000.

The loss of Raqqa would be another major setback for IS after the jihadist group was driven from its main Iraqi bastion of Mosul in July. According to Mr McGurk, the militants have also lost 78% of the territory they held in Iraq and 58% of what they had in Syria, adding, “today in Raqqa, ISIS (IS) is fighting for every last block…and fighting for their own survival…They most likely will die in Raqqa.’

More than 300,000 people have lost their lives in six years of conflict in Syria, which began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad before escalating into a full-scale civil war. Eleven million people have been displaced by the fighting.