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U.S.-Led Coalition Preparing To Retake Raqqa As Mosul Offensive Continues

  • RFE/RL

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) militant group has announced that it is preparing for the start of an operation to take the Syrian city of Raqqa.

The preparations to capture Raqqa, IS's stronghold in Syria, comes amid a major offensive against the extremists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a news conference in Paris that both operations will "overlap."

"There will be overlap and that's part of our plan and we are prepared for that," Carter said after a meeting of defense ministers from the 13 countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS militants.

"We have already begun laying the groundwork for our partners to commence the isolation of Raqqa," Carter added.

He said the operation in Raqqa would be carried out by "capable and motivated local forces that we identify and enable."

Carter did not offer further specifics on when the operation to retake Raqqa would begin.

French President Francois Hollande said it was necessary to look beyond just the retaking of Mosul.

"Raqqa will be the last bastion of Daesh if Mosul falls," Hollande said, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group. "Daesh must be eliminated everywhere. Any stronghold represents a threat."

His comments came as Iraqi government forces pushed closer to Mosul, the last IS stronghold in Iraq.

Fighting continued on October 25 in a belt of villages and towns to the north, east, and south of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

Major General Haidar Fadhil said that Iraqi special forces had reached a village located 6 kilometers from the eastern edge of Mosul.

Fadhil also said around 335 civilians were evacuated to a refugee camp from the village of Tob Zawa, about 9 kilometers from Mosul, which was retaken by special forces on October 24.

The campaign to retake control of Mosul, already in its ninth day, is expected to take weeks, if not months.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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