200,000 flee Raqa ahead of assault by Syrian forces

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Washington (AFP)

Around 200,000 people have fled the Islamic State stronghold of Raqa, a US military official said, as US-backed Syrian forces prepare for an assault on the city.

US Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the coalition, said the refugees were moving into camps and built-up settlements nearby.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting the Islamic State group, "have made the decision to ask the civilians to depart, as opposed to staying in Raqa," Dillon said.

The SDF is closing in on Raqa from the north, west and east, but has not yet battled its way to areas south of the city.

Meanwhile, Russian aircraft have carried out a series of strikes against IS convoys fleeing the city, Moscow said Thursday.