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Daesh 'capital' in crosshairs; US sending more troops to bolster offensive

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Author: ReutersWed, 2017-03-22ID: 1490127242874792800
BEIRUT: The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said a US-backed assault to drive Daesh from its de facto capital Raqqa would begin at the start of April and the YPG would be taking part, despite fierce opposition from neighboring Turkey.
A spokesman for the US Pentagon said no decision had been made yet on the Raqqa offensive.
US-backed forces, including the YPG, are closing in on the city. The comments by YPG commander Sipan Hemo to Reuters were the first indication of a date for an attack on Raqqa.
In a written reply to questions, Hemo, who rarely if ever appears in the media, said: “Regarding the decision to liberate Raqqa and storm it, the matter is decided and at the start of the month of April the military operation will begin.”
He added: “We believe that liberating Raqqa will not take more than a number of weeks.” His comments were relayed via a YPG spokesman.
Hemo said YPG militia would storm Raqqa alongside Arab fighters in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “Of the total force for storming Raqqa, 25 percent are YPG, who are set apart in their combat experience and high-level command skills directing battles in cities,” he said.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman, said: “We have not made any decisions on how and when we will move in for the liberation of Raqqa.”
Meanwhile, the US is deploying an additional 400 troops to help defeat Daesh in Raqqa, a spokesman for the US-led coalition said on Thursday.
“They are temporary forces,” US Col. John Dorrian told reporters in Baghdad, confirming a report in the New York Times, adding that the long-term authorized level of US troops in Syria would remain at 500.
Separately, the Syrian regime and opposition delegations have confirmed their attendance at peace talks set to resume in Geneva this week, the UN said on Tuesday, despite renewed fighting around Damascus.
“All invitees who had already attended the previous round of talks in February 2017 have confirmed their participation,” UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters.
She said UN mediator Staffan de Mistura was visiting key powers shaping the conflict — including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey — before returning to Geneva to lead the talks.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: RaqqaSyriaDaeshIslamic StateISILYPGSyrian Kurdish militiaSipan HemoSyrian Democratic Forcesrelated_nodes: US backed group says it can capture Syrian city of RaqqaRaqqa a ‘few weeks’ away as US ups military muscleRival groups race for Raqqa’s controlTurkey warns: US ties at risk if Kurds help retake Raqqa

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