The spokeswoman of the “Operation Wrath of Euphrates”, launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, said that the US-backed force has set its sights on Raqqa after capturing Tabqah city centre on Tuesday.
Cihan Sheikh Ahmed, speaking to Dihaber news agency, said the US-backed fighters had liberated the strategically important Tabqah city centre after heavy clashes in nine neighbourhoods in the past three days.
Operation prolonged due to damage control
Ahmed, also an SDF commander, added that the operation had taken longer than expected because the multi-ethnic force had wanted to limit damage to the city and dam, which the extremist group had threatened to blow up, she said.
“We don’t want our people to suffer. When we liberate an area we want to put it in their service. We carried out the operation with this in mind. Daesh [IS] has booby-trapped many places, so we have to conduct sweeping operations. We saved thousands of our citizens from captivity.”
Now on to Raqqa
The commander spoke confidently of the SDF’s operation against the jihadist IS and underlined the importance of Tabqah, saying, “We will march to Raqqa city centre following Tabqah. We couldn’t take Raqqa without Tabqah.”
Many people from Tabqah joining SDF
Ahmed said the citizens of Tabqah were excited and overjoyed after being liberated from IS and that many young men and women had joined the SDF.
The commander, herself from Raqqa, concluded by calling on IS militants to surrender and for citizens living in the city centre to flee to areas held by the SDF.
“We are giving Daesh militants a chance for freedom”
“Daesh is going to play a dirty game in Raqqa. It is going to try and scare the people. So, we are appealing to the people to come to areas under our control. We are not going to allow any more suffering. This is why we are also calling on gang [IS] members to drop their weapons and surrender. We are waging a legitimate struggle and will win. This is a war for freedom. We are giving them this chance for freedom as well. Otherwise they have no chance for escape.”
IS suffocated in Raqqa
With the capture of Tabqah, the SDF have severed all routes from Aleppo to IS-held areas in Raqqa, Deir Ez-zor and over the border into Iraq’s Mosul and Baghdad. The group’s access to trade, arms and logistics has been severely limited.
The majority Sunni Arab city of Tabqah, which had a pre-war population of between 70-80,000 is expected to be handed over to a civilian council in the coming weeks.