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HEAVY CLASHES AS SYRIAN KURDS LAUNCH AGAINST DAESH MILITANTS IN AL-RAGGA

CAIRO, -- Heavy clashes were taking place on Sunday north of

al-Raqqa, Daesh de facto capital in Syria, a monitoring

group said, after Kurdish-led forces announced the start of a

long-awaited campaign to capture the city.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured several

frontline villages and farms about 45 kilometres north of al-Raqqa,

while warplanes buzzed the area and targeted jihadist positions, the

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Daesh, via its Amaq Agency media outlet, claimed to have

killed 14 Kurdish fighters in a suicide car bomb attack on a

checkpoint in the area.

The Kurds said they had destroyed two car bombs, but a source close

to the SDF, who asked not to be quoted by name, said that an

unspecified number of SDF fighters had been killed in the attack.

Hours earlier, SDF commanders announced the move on al-Raqqa - which

comes as Iraqi forces push into the organization's Iraqi stronghold

of Mosul - and said it was being conducted in coordination with the

US-led air coalition against Daesh.

Around 80 per cent of those participating in the so-called Euphrates

Anger operation are civilians from al-Raqqa, the commanders said. The

city in north-eastern Syria has been under Daesh control

since 2014.

Mosul and al-Raqqa are the only major urban centres Daesh

fully controls.

The SDF previously announced a campaign to capture the countryside

north of al-Raqqa in May, but that appeared to have been a feint.

After a couple of days of minor clashes, the Kurdish-led forces

instead launched a major assault on the strategic town of Minbij,

lying between al-Raqqa and the Turkish border, which they captured in

August.

That prompted an intervention by Turkey, which moved allied Syrian

rebels into northern Syria to capture the last Islamic State-held

stretch of the border.

Ankara said that its operations were aimed at both Daesh and

the Kurds, whom it denounces as terrorists because of their links

with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces will be

the ones to move on al-Raqqa.

Source: Nam News Network