US-backed Kurdish fighters claim 80 percent of Raqqa has been liberated

WASHINGTON — U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters known as the People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, claim to have liberated nearly 80 percent of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIS, according to a video press release by the militant group.

The Kurdish YPG fighters are a major group within the Syrian Democratic Forces, which also includes Arabs, Syriac Christians, and other ethnic groups.

The official media page for the Kurdish fighters released a video Wednesday morning claiming the group had launched an offensive in the northern Raqqa district of Remayla and captured a series of grain silos located on the outskirts of the embattled city.

The fighting to secure the grain silos was described as “fierce,” according to the video press release, and the fighters claim the structures are rigged with ISIS explosives.

The Syriac Military Council — a military organization comprised of Syriac Christians aligned with the SDF — posted an updated map showing the silos recently liberated.

The Syriac Military Council posted an updated map of the campaign to liberate Raqqa on Sept. 20, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Syriac Military Council)
The Syriac Military Council posted an updated map of the campaign to liberate Raqqa on Sept. 20, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Syriac Military Council)

Grain silos have been a favorite strategic holdout for ISIS fighters since the battle to liberate the Syrian city of Manbij. It’s a tactic that also was used by Soviet fighters against the invading German army in the WWII battle for Stalingrad, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Grain silos provide a tactical advantage by giving defending fighters cover with reinforced steel that can at times withstand multiple airstrikes. It also provides a vantage point for fighters to view the city and command fighters, and it can be used as a sniping position.

The battle to liberate the grain silos from ISIS in Manbij slowed down the operation considerably.

In this case, SDF fighters appear to have liberated the grain silos rapidly by waiting to assault the silos towards the end of the Raqqa campaign, potentially a lesson learned from operations in Manbij.

Moreover, the successful capture of the silos may indicate that ISIS fighters’ will to fight has greatly diminished since SDF forces launched an operation to liberate Raqqa back in June.

Officials in Baghdad, Iraq, have previously reported cases of ISIS fighters surrendering to coalition fighters, including reports of malnourished and drugged out ISIS militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a watchdog group observing the conflict in Syria — has also confirmed the grain silos have been captured by the SDF. The human rights group further claimed 90 percent of Raqqa is currently in SDF hands.

Military Times reached out to officials in Baghdad to confirm the latest progress by SDF forces; no response had been received at press time. 

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