Vastavam web: Syrian government forces and their allies today said they seized the town of Mayadeen, an Islamic State stronghold in the country’s east, in a major gain in the race for territories previously held by the militant group.The announcement came as US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said they were in the “final” battle for control of Raqqa, the IS’ de facto capital and the symbol of the group’s reign of terror.The town, on the western bank of the Euphrates River, was also a major node in the race for control of the oil-rich eastern Deir el-Zour province that straddles the border with Iraq.
SDF has steadily been making a bid for areas in the province, securing territory to the east of the river as the US-backed offensive focused on the Iraq border area, still controlled by IS.As the Syrian government launched its Deir el-Zour offensive in September, the US-backed forces diverted some fighters from Raqqa toward Deir el-Zour to secure the Iraqi border.This prompted the government troops and allied militiamen to push south to Mayadeen, finally securing the town today.Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government troops, backed by Shiite militias, have control of the town but are still combing it for militants.
With IS under fire in Deir el-Zour and Raqqa, the only remaining urban stronghold still in the militants’ hand is Boukamal, a strategic border town that had linked IS territory in Syria and Iraq.They emerged from destroyed districts, some of them collapsing on the ground in exhaustion as they arrive to a Kurdish-held area of the city, in haunting scenes reflecting their years- old ordeal.Earlier this week, US officials said an estimated 4,000 civilians are believed still trapped in the city. Omar Alloush, a local Raqqa official, told The Associated Press on Friday that about 100 IS militants surrendered at once.Losing Raqqa, in many ways the symbol of IS’ caliphate, would be yet another blow to the militant group and its reign of terror in the region as its strongholds crumble one after another in Iraq and other parts of Syria.
Still, the US-led coalition said it expects “difficult fighting” in the days ahead to completely oust IS from the city and secure it. SDF and US officials said the remaining militants are mostly suicide bombers who only have small arms and rifles. With a small area remaining, they have no access to their weapon of choice, car bombs, said Bali, the SDF spokesman.
Militants seized Raqqa in 2014, the first city to fall under the full control of the extremist group. It became synonymous with IS’ reign of terror, with public killings and beheadings videotaped slayings that have shocked the world. It was also from Raqqa, which became a destination for foreign fighters from around the world, that many of IS’ attacks in the West were plotted.The latest battle for Raqqa began in June, with heavy street-by-street fighting amid intense US-led coalition airstrikes and shelling. The battle has dragged on in the face of stiff resistance from the militants and civilians trapped in the city.