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US-backed Syria force advances in Raqa, battles for base
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Beirut, June 11 (Agencies): : US-backed Syrian fighters said they had seized a second district of Raqa on Sunday and launched a renewed assault on a base north of the city, as they pursued an offensive against the Islamic State group.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who broke into Raqa after announcing the start of a final assault on the city last week, said their fighters "liberated the neighbourhood of Al-Romaniya on the western front of Raqa, after two days of continued clashes."

It was the first time the SDF was reported to have taken a western district of IS-held Raqa, which its fighters are bearing down on from the east, west and north. The SDF previously seized control of the district of Al-Meshleb in the east.

There was less progress though on the northern front of the battle, where the SDF has struggled to capture the Division 17 military base and an adjacent sugar factory, used by IS to defend approaches into the city.

SDF fighters were battling on Sunday to dislodge IS from the base, with backing from the US-led coalition bombing IS, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Blasts could be heard throughout the night because of the exchange of fire between the two sides," the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said IS had "heavily fortified" the base in anticipation of a ferocious SDF assault on it.

Originally a Syrian army base, Division 17 was seized by IS in 2014 as it took control of swathes of the wider Raqa province.

After its capture by the jihadists the same year, Raqa city emerged as a key hub for IS`s operations in Syria, neighbouring Iraq, and beyond.The SDF -- an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 -- spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqa city before finally entering it this week.

After seizing Al-Meshleb on Wednesday, SDF forces were using it as a launching pad for new operations, according to the Observatory.

News Updated at : Monday, June 12, 2017
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