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u.s. commander sees urgent need for recovery in raqqa


raqqa, syria—the u.s. military commander overseeing the war against islamic state visited the city once claimed by the group as its capital, saying monday that a more difficult campaign now must begin to help local residents regain control and prevent a slide back into extremist hands.army gen. joseph votel, head of the u.s. central command, spent more than an hour in his first visit to raqqa, where intact buildings were a rare sight in block after block of rubble. residents were at work rebuilding inner walls of buildings...






us commander: mosul and raqqa should be retaken in 6 months


p taji, iraq — the top u.s. commander in iraq says he expects to retake mosul in iraq and raqqa in syria from the islamic state group within the next six months and the fight for western mosul to begin in days.on a tour north of baghdad wednesday, u.s. army lt. gen. stephen townsend said "within the next six months i think we'll see both (the mosul and raqqa paigns) conclude."townsend, who heads the u.s.-led coalition against is, said iraq's military is still in the process of putting forces into place ahead of the push into western mosul, but predicted operations would begin "in the next few days."iraqi forces declared mosul's east "fully liberated" in january after launching the operation to retake the city in october.






syrian kurdish commander says raqqa freed of islamic state militants


u.s.-backed syrian forces liberated the city of raqqa on tuesday from islamic state militants, a senior commander said, in a major defeat for the collapsing extremist group that had proclaimed it to be the capital of its "caliphate."although clashes in raqqa have ended, the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces are in control, combing the city in northern syria for land mines and searching for any is sleeper cells, brig. gen. talal sillo told the associated press.sillo said a formal declaration that raqqa has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations in the city on the banks of the euphrates river.col. ryan dillon, a spokesman for the u.s.-led coalition, said it has not yet received official reports that the city was cleared, describing mines and booby traps th






us-backed syrian fighters seize parts of is 'capital' raqqa


beirut — a u.s.-backed syrian force says it has captured a northwestern neighborhood of the islamic state group's de-facto capital of raqqa after two days of fighting.the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces says its fighters captured on sunday the neighborhood of romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 is gunmen dead, including a commander known as abu khattab al-tunsi.the britain-based syrian observatory for human rights said sdf fighters now control romaniah and the eastern neighborhood of mashlab. the fighters have also entered raqqa's western neighborhood of sabahiya.sdf fighters began their offensive on raqqa city on june 6 under the cover of airstrikes by the u.s.-led coalition.the battle is likely to be long and difficult as the extremist group is expected to fiercely defe






arabs, kurds unite against is, but post-victory? ‘god knows’


raqqa, syria (ap) — the two fighters, one an arab sniper, the other his kurdish commander, are each driven by a personal grudge against the islamic state group. they are working side by side in an elite commando unit of the u.s.-backed forces fighting the militants in the syrian city of raqqa.but they have vastly different visions of what happens once they succeed.abdullah, the arab fighter, fears the militants’ fall in raqqa will only be the start of more turmoil. he worries it will unleash a wave of bloodshed among the area’s sunni arab community as residents seek revenge on neighbors who joined the group.for erdal, the kurd and the unit commander, the battle for raqqa is a step toward realizing his people’s dream of autonomy in the kurdish heartland of northern syria. next, he and many






sdf: final push on isil's raqqa 'likely next month' | syria news


the syrian democratic forces (sdf), a us-backed group, says it will soon begin a final attack to capture raqqa, isil's self-proclaimed capital in northern syria, just days after seizing a key town to the west and an adjacent dam.the announcement on friday followed us president donald trump's decision on monday to approve direct arms shipments to the sdf's kurdish elements - the kurdish people's protection units (ypg) - to "ensure a clear victory" over isil.donald trump to arm kurdish fighters in syriasdf commander abdul qader hevdeli said on friday the push to raqqa "will be in the coming period of time."i can't specify exactly; i believe entering and storming the city will happen at the start of the summer," he said in a news conference in tabqa city, which the sdf took from isil on wedne






trump oks arms for syrian kurds, despite turkish objections


washington (ap) — the trump administration has announced it will arm syria’s kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key islamic state group stronghold of raqqa, despite intense opposition from nato ally turkey, which sees the kurds as terrorists.the decision is meant to accelerate the raqqa operation but undermines the turkish government’s view that the syrian kurdish group known as the ypg is an extension of a kurdish terrorist organization that operates in turkey. washington is eager to retake raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for is operatives looking to plan attacks on the west.dana w. white, the pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that president donald trump authorized the arms monday. his approval gives the pentagon the go-ahead to “equip kurdish eleme






trump oks arms for syrian kurds, despite turkish objections


washington — the trump administration has announced it will arm syria's kurdish fighters "as necessary" to recapture the key islamic state group stronghold of raqqa, despite intense opposition from nato ally turkey, which sees the kurds as terrorists.the decision is meant to accelerate the raqqa operation but undermines the turkish government's view that the syrian kurdish group known as the ypg is an extension of a kurdish terrorist organization that operates in turkey. washington is eager to retake raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for is operatives looking to plan attacks on the west.dana w. white, the pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that president donald trump authorized the arms monday. his approval gives the pentagon the go-ahead to "equip kurdish elements o






trump oks arms for syrian kurds, despite turkish objections


washington — the trump administration announced tuesday it will arm syria's kurdish fighters "as necessary" to recapture the key islamic state group stronghold of raqqa, despite intense opposition from nato ally turkey, which sees the kurds as terrorists.the decision is meant to accelerate the raqqa operation but undermines the turkish government's view that the syrian kurdish group known as the ypg is an extension of a kurdish terrorist organization that operates in turkey. washington is eager to retake raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for is operatives to plan attacks on the west.dana w. white, the pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that president donald trump authorized the arms monday. his approval gives the pentagon the go-ahead to "equip kurdish elements of th






trump oks arms for syrian kurds, despite turkish objections


washington (ap) — the trump administration has announced it will arm syria’s kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key islamic state group stronghold of raqqa, despite intense opposition from nato ally turkey, which sees the kurds as terrorists.the decision is meant to accelerate the raqqa operation but undermines the turkish government’s view that the syrian kurdish group known as the ypg is an extension of a kurdish terrorist organization that operates in turkey. washington is eager to retake raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for is operatives looking to plan attacks on the west.dana w. white, the pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that president donald trump authorized the arms monday. his approval gives the pentagon the go-ahead to “equip kurdish eleme






in syria's raqqa, is makes last stand at city's stadium


beirut — u.s.-backed, kurdish-led forces battling the islamic state group in syria on tuesday captured the city hospital in raqqa, leaving is militants holed up at the local stadium, their last stand in the fight over what was once the extremists' de facto capital.the hospital was one of is last holdouts in raqqa and had doubled as a hospital and an is command center. its capture left is militants cornered in and around the notorious municipal stadium.musafa bali, a spokesman for the syrian democratic forces, said 22 is militants were killed in the advance on the hospital. the fighting was still underway with militants who had refused to surrender, he said.the syrian observatory for human rights said that a major push by the sdf on the municipal stadium was underway.clashes are ongoing aro






kurdish-led forces say they will advance on is capital


beirut — a kurdish-led syrian force backed by the u.s. expects to advance on the islamic state group's de facto capital of raqqa in northern syria this summer, a commander said friday, following a decision by the trump administration to supply the force with heavier weapons.the syrian democratic forces have been buoyed by this week's capture of the key town of tabqa and its nearby dam. the advance left no significant is-held urban settlements between sdf lines and raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.an sdf commander, identified only as abdelqader, declined to specify dates at a news conference, citing tactical reasons. he said the battle for raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the u.s. military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in t






kurdish-led forces say they will advance on is capital


beirut — a kurdish-led syrian force backed by the u.s. expects to advance on the islamic state group's de facto capital of raqqa in northern syria this summer, a commander said friday, following a decision by the trump administration to supply the force with heavier weapons.the syrian democratic forces have been buoyed by this week's capture of the key town of tabqa and its nearby dam. the advance left no significant is-held urban settlements between sdf lines and raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.an sdf commander, identified only as abdelqader, declined to specify dates at a news conference, citing tactical reasons. he said the battle for raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the u.s. military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in t






syrian kurdish forces say they will push on to is capital


beirut (ap) — a u.s.-backed syrian kurdish force expects to push on and capture the islamic state group’s de facto capital of raqqa in northern syria this summer, a commander said friday.the syrian democratic forces have been buoyed by this week’s capture of the key town of tabqa and its nearby dam. the advance left no significant is-held urban settlements between sdf lines and raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.an sdf commander, identified only as abdelqader, declined to specify dates at a news conference, citing tactical reasons. he said the battle for raqqa would begin once the group receives heavy weapons from the u.s. military.the announcement was a snub to turkey, which doesn’t want the syrian kurdish-led force to take raqqa and has offered its own troops instead. anka






u.s. troops "just getting started good" in raqqa


kobani, syria -- a dirt airstrip for the u.s. military and a storage space for over 100 tons of munitions is carved out of the desert in northern syria. it's an american logistics hub for the fight to retake raqqa -- the so-called isis capital -- that began almost a month ago.lt. gen. stephen townsend, the commander of the u.s.-led coalition to fight isis, came straight from a forward command post near raqqa."i think we're in the first 25 or 30 percent of the campaign for raqqa," townsend told cbs news. "we're just getting started good in raqqa."playvideocbs this morningu.s. troops threatened by deadly mines planted by isis in eastern syria, a cbs news crew joined a group of american troops 12 miles north of raqqa, isis' self-proclaimed capital. the fight to oust isi... as u.s.-backed figh






us commander signals larger, longer us presence in syria


washington (ap) — the top u.s. commander in the middle east is signaling that there will be a larger and longer american military presence in syria to accelerate the fight against the islamic state group and quell friction within the complicated mix of warring factions there.gen. joseph votel, head of u.s. central command, tells senators that he will need more conventional u.s. forces to insure stability once the fight to defeat islamic state militants in raqqa is over. he says the u.s. military can’t just leave once the fighting stops, because the syrians need help ensuring a peaceful transition to local control.votel’s comments come as a couple hundred marines moved into syria with large artillery guns to help the raqqa fight, and another couple hundred army rangers went into northern sy






us, allies may increase strikes, surveillance in raqqa


washington (ap) — the top u.s. commander in iraq says the coalition may increase airstrikes and overhead surveillance support for the fight to retake raqqa, syria, from the islamic state group now that the militants have been largely defeated in mosul, iraq.lt. gen. stephen townsend tells pentagon reporters that he doesn’t see a significant expansion of the u.s. and coalition effort in raqqa. but he says the fight there is now the priority.townsend says that iraqi forces still need time to oust any remaining is fighters from mosul. he says the iraqi troops will probably then take a break to reset and rest before launching their fight against is in tal afar and other remaining insurgent strongholds in western iraq.iraqi leaders declared victory over is in mosul on monday.most read storiesun






raqqa casualties: 'i blame the coalition'


videocivilians are returning to raqqa after islamic state were pushed out, but dangers, and wounds, remain.share this withcopy this linkhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-middle-east-42333745/raqqa-casualties-i-blame-the-coalitionread more about sharingclose share panel






syrian kurdish commander says raqqa freed of islamic state militants


u.s.-backed syrian forces liberated the city of raqqa from islamic state militants on tuesday, a senior commander for the force said, adding that clearing operations were underway to remove land mines left behind and search for the extremist group's sleeper cells.brig. gen. talal sillo told the associated press that there are no longer clashes in the city, which had served as the extremist group's headquarters and self-proclaimed capital of their so-called "caliphate" for more than three years.a formal declaration will be made from the city soon, after the clearing operations end. raqqa is still full of land mines, sillo added, but fighters of the syrian democratic forces are now in control of the former "capital of terrorism."on monday, the head of a police force affiliated with the sdf,






us-allied forces begin final assault on is in syria’s raqqa


beirut (ap) — u.s.-backed syrian fighters launched an operation to retake the last islamic state-held pocket of the northern city of raqqa on sunday after some 275 militants and their family members surrendered.the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces said the operation will continue “until all the city is cleansed from terrorists who refused to surrender.”the sdf has been on the offensive in raqqa since early june and now controls about 90 percent of the city that was once the extremist group’s self-styled capital. most of the fighters who remain in the pocket are foreigners, according to the sdf and opposition activists.the operation was named after adnan abu amjad, an arab commander with the sdf who was killed in august while fighting against is in central raqqa.most read storiesunlimit






us-backed syrian forces set sights on valley north of raqqa


beirut — u.s.-backed syrian kurdish forces say they have entered the fourth stage of their campaign to capture the islamic state group's de facto capital raqqa with an advance on the militants in a valley north of the city.the syrian democratic forces, which include arab fighters, say they are working to clear the militants out of the jalab valley, north of raqqa. an estimated 300,000 people are in the city.the sdf says it wants to isolate raqqa before attacking it. their closest position is within 8 kilometers (5 miles) northeast of the city. but the countryside south of raqqa is still under is control.it is unclear how many stages are planned for the sdf campaign.






us-allied forces begin final assault on isis in syria's raqqa


beirut — u.s.-backed syrian fighters launched an operation to retake the last islamic state-held pocket of the northern city of raqqa on sunday after some 275 militants and their family members surrendered.the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces said the operation will continue "until all the city is cleansed from terrorists who refused to surrender."the sdf has been on the offensive in raqqa since early june and now controls about 90 percent of the city that was once the extremist group's self-styled capital. most of the fighters who remain in the pocket are foreigners, according to the sdf and opposition activists.the operation was named after adnan abu amjad, an arab commander with the sdf who was killed in august while fighting against is in central raqqa.the loss of raqqa would hand






the battle for raqqa: who controls what | isis


the syrian democratic forces (sdf), the united states' closest ally in syria, has begun the final push for raqqa, one of the last and most important strongholds of the islamic state of iraq and the levant (isil, also known as isis). most routes to the city have been captured by the us-backed forces, and isil is losing ground day after day. read more: the battle for raqqa explained the sdf has been working to encircle raqqa since november in an offensive backed by the us-led coalition that is also fighting isil in iraq, where the group is on the brink of defeat in the city of mosul. the us-led coalition has said 3,000 to 4,000 isil fighters are thought to be holed up in raqqa city, where they have erected defences against the anticipated assault. for months now, isil has been preparing for






the battle for raqqa: who controls what | isis


the syrian democratic forces (sdf), the united states' closest ally in syria, has begun the final push for raqqa, one of the last and most important strongholds of the islamic state of iraq and the levant (isil, also known as isis). most routes to the city have been captured by the us-backed forces, and isil is losing ground day after day. read more: the battle for raqqa explained the sdf has been working to encircle raqqa since november in an offensive backed by the us-led coalition that is also fighting isil in iraq, where the group is on the brink of defeat in the city of mosul. the us-led coalition has said 3,000 to 4,000 isil fighters are thought to be holed up in raqqa city, where they have erected defences against the anticipated assault. for months now, isil has been preparing for






kurdish-led fighters launch offensive toward syria's raqqa


beirut — u.s.-backed kurdish-led fighters in northern syria have launched a new offensive that aims to capture towns and villages east of the islamic state -held northern city of raqqa.the new offensive by the syria democratic forces was announced urday in a statement read by spokeswoman cihan sheikh ehmed. she said it is the third phase of the raqqa operation, which began last november.the aim of the operation is to isolate raqqa from the rest of is-held territories before storming the city itself. the announcement e a day after aircraft from the u.s.-led coalition destroyed two bridges on the southern edge of raqqa, the de facto capital of is' self-declared caliphate.






us-backed syrian fighters seize parts of is 'capital' raqqa


beirut — a u.s.-backed syrian opposition force said sunday it has captured a northwestern neighborhood of the islamic state group's de-facto capital of raqqa the second district to fall in their hands in days after the group launched a wide offensive to gain control of the extremists' de facto capital.the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces said its fighters captured the neighborhood of romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 is gunmen dead, including a commander known as abu khattab al-tunsi.the britain-based syrian observatory for human rights said sdf fighters now control romaniah and the eastern neighborhood of mashlab. the fighters have also entered raqqa's western neighborhood of sabahiya and the industrial district in the east.raqqa was among the first cities captured by i






us-backed syrian fighters seize parts of is ‘capital’ raqqa


beirut (ap) — a u.s.-backed syrian opposition force said sunday it has captured a northwestern neighborhood of the islamic state group’s de-facto capital of raqqa the second district to fall in their hands in days after the group launched a wide offensive to gain control of the extremists’ de facto capital.the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces said its fighters captured the neighborhood of romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 is gunmen dead, including a commander known as abu khattab al-tunsi.the britain-based syrian observatory for human rights said sdf fighters now control romaniah and the eastern neighborhood of mashlab. the fighters have also entered raqqa’s western neighborhood of sabahiya and the industrial district in the east.raqqa was among the first cities captured






syrian city of raqqa liberated from islamic state: reports


raqqa was formerly the the extremist group’s de facto capital.        






about 4,000 civilians remain in is-held syrian city of raqqa


beirut — a spokesman for the u.s.-led coalition battling the islamic state group says an estimated 4,000 civilians are still trapped in the syrian city of raqqa, once the extremists' de facto capital, and that coalition allies are working out ways to evacuate them.col. ryan dillon says the raqqa civil council, a local administration of arab and kurdish officials, is leading the discussions. it's not clear with whom the council is speaking inside raqqa.dillon said on wednesday that the coalition wouldn't accept a negotiated surrender of up to 400 militants believed holed up in the last part of the city that remains in is hands.dillon says up to 15 militants have surrendered in the past three weeks in raqqa. the battle for the city is in its final stages.






isis facing imminent collapse in syria's raqqa


the u.s. coalition said about 85% of raqqa was now controlled by the syrian defense forces.        






ap explains: kurdish-led force likely to capture is’ raqqa


beirut (ap) — backed by the united states, a multi-ethnic group known as the syrian democratic forces is likely to lead the operation to capture the northern syrian city of raqqa, the islamic state group’s de facto capital.the group has been the most effective and trusted force by the united states to battle is in the northern and eastern parts of syria. the sdf was predominantly kurdish but over the past months, more arabs have been recruited by the group ahead of the battle for raqqa which has a predominantly arab population.here’s a look at the group:___most read storiesunlimited digital access. $1 for 4 weeks.what is the syrian democratic forcesa kurdish-led alliance that includes arab tribesmen and christian fighters. the group which was founded in october 2015 has tens of thousands o






us brett mcgurk says foreign isis fighters in raqqa will "die in raqqa"


northern syria -- america's top envoy to the coalition battling isis, brett mcgurk, said this week that the u.s. mission in syria is to make sure that all foreign isis fighters still in the city of raqqa, die there. "our mission is to make sure that no foreign fighters, that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined isis from a foreign country and came into syria, that they will die here in syria… if they are in raqqa, they're gonna die in raqqa," mcgurk told an arabic network on a visit to syria.  brett mcgurk (c), u.s. special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter isis, and rupert jones (l), deputy commander of combined joint task force operation inherent resolve (cjtf-oir), arrive for a meeting with the tabqa civil council in the town of tabqa, about 35 miles west of






rivals in syria race to assault militants' 'capital' raqqa


beirut — after the battlefield of iraq's mosul, the next major campaign against the islamic state group will be to take its de facto capital, the syrian city of raqqa. the pentagon has drawn up a secret plan to do that, likely leaning on local allies with stepped up american support.the question is: in the tangled mess that is syria's conflict, who are those local allies?syrian government forces, turkish troops and their syrian militia allies, and u.s.-backed kurdish forces all have their eye on raqqa. each vehemently rejects letting the others capture the city and would likely react in anger should the united states support the others. and it is not clear that any has the resources to take the city on its own."raqqa is more of an abstract goal: everyone wants it in principle, but no one i






french defense chief: battle for syria's raqqa within days


paris — france's defense minister says the battle by international forces to take back the islamic state group's de facto capital of raqqa in syria will start in the coming days.defense minister jean-yves le drian said raqqa is a "major objective" for the u.s.-led coalition trying to quash is extremists in syria and iraq.le drian spoke on cnews television on friday.he says: "today we can say that raqqa is encircled and that the battle will begin in the coming days. it will be a very hard battle but it will be an essential battle."as the coalition advances in its battle to retake the is stronghold of mosul in iraq, the u.s. has been intensifying involvement in syria's conflict ahead of the battle for raqqa.






rival groups race for control of syria's raqqa


beirut — a major battle to liberate the islamic state group's stronghold of raqqa in northern syria is looming, with u.s. officials looking to build on momentum from victories on the battlefields of mosul in iraq. the pentagon has drawn up a secret plan to do that, likely leaning on local allies with stepped-up american support.the question is: who are those local allies in the tangled mess that is syria's conflict?syrian government forces, turkish troops and their syrian militia allies, and u.s.-backed kurdish forces all have their eye on raqqa. each vehemently rejects letting the others capture the city and would likely react in anger should the united states support the others. and it is not clear that any has the resources to take the city on its own."raqqa is more of an abstract goal:






is conflict: air strike 'kills dozens in village near raqqa'


image copyrightreutersimage caption thousands of civilians have been displaced by the battle to oust is from raqqa at least 33 people have been killed in an air strike on a school in a village west of the islamic state-held syrian city of raqqa, a monitoring group says.the syrian observatory for human rights said the building in al-mansoura was being used as a shelter for displaced people when it was hit on monday night.the activist group raqqa is being slaughtered silently said the fate of 50 families who were there was unknown.both groups believe the raid was carried out by us-led coalition jets.there was no immediate comment from the coalition, but it has said there were 19 strikes near raqqa on monday, including three that destroyed is "headquarters".the coalition is supporting an offe






dutch get creative to solve prison problem: too many empty cells


recorded crime in the netherlands has shrunk by about a quarter over the past nine years, and that is expected to translate into a surplus of 3,000 prison cells by 2021.the netherlands has a problem many countries can only dream of: a shortage of prison inmates.while countries like belgium, britain, haiti, italy, the united states and venezuela deal with prison overcrowding, the netherlands has such a surplus of unused cells that it has rented some of its prisons to belgium and norway. it has also turned about a dozen former prisons into centers for asylum seekers.about a third of dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the ministry of justice. criminologists attribute the situation to a spectacular fall in crime during the past two decades and an approach to law enforcement that prefer