US-backed forces launch bid to capture IS Syria bastion Raqa

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Ain Issa (Syria) (AFP)

A US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters launched Sunday a long-awaited operation to capture the Islamic State group's de facto Syrian capital Raqa.

"The major battle to liberate Raqa and its surroundings has begun," a commander with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said, reading a statement at a press conference in Ain Issa, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the jihadist bastion.

The operation comes as Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition press an assault to take the jihadist group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.