U.S.-backed forces cut off all routes
into IS-held Manbij: Syrian Observatory
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[June 10, 2016]
BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S.-backed
forces seized control of the last route into Islamic State-held city of
Manbij in northern Syria on Friday, completing their encirclement of the
main target in a major advance against the militants, a monitoring group
The Syria Democratic Forces, supported by U.S.-led air strikes and
American special forces, launched and advance last week to seize
Islamic State's last territory on the Syria-Turkey border and cut
the self-declared caliphate off from the world.
Other enemies of Islamic State, including the governments of Syria
and Iraq, also launched major offensives on other fronts, in what
amounts to the most sustained pressure on the militants since they
proclaimed their caliphate in 2014.
Officials of the SDF, a U.S.-backed group formed last year to unite
powerful Kurdish militia with Arab anti-Islamic State fighters,
could not immediately be reached.
The SDF had by Thursday advanced to within firing distance of the
last main highway into Manbij, Islamic State's main bastion in the
border area west of the Euphrates. The Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights monitoring group said the SDF had effectively taken control
of the final road to the city early on Friday.
"There's no road left... they're all cut," the Observatory's
director, Rami Abdulrahman, said.
The offensive near the border is the most ambitious advance yet in
Syria by a group allied to Washington, which has previously
struggled to develop capable allies on the ground amid Syria's
five-year multi-sided civil war.
SDF forces have also advanced in the neighboring province of Raqqa,
and Syrian government forces and their allies, backed by Russia,
opened a separate front against Islamic State in Raqqa province last
[to top of second column]
A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands near a woman looking
out a doorway in a village, on the outskirts of Manbij city, after
they took control of it from Islamic State forces, Aleppo province,
Syria June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
The Iraqi government has launched its own assault on the Islamic
State bastion Falluja, an hour's drive from Baghdad, at the opposite
end of Islamic State territory.
The SDF has said this week that it was holding back from an
immediate assault to enter Manbij out of concern for civilians.
The Observatory said nearly 160 Islamic State fighters had died in
battles with the SDF around Manbij and more than 20 SDF fighters had
(Reporting by John Davison; editing by Peter Graff)
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