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U.S.-Backed Syrian Kurds Advance Toward IS Stronghold

SDF forces sit in the back of a truck in the village of Abu al-Ilaj, some 50 kilometers north of Raqqa, on November 7.

U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian forces are advancing toward the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group's de facto capital in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a multiethnic opposition alliance led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), had retaken control of 19 villages north of Raqqa.

"The SDF forces are trying to move deeper into the northern countryside of Raqqa," said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the monitoring group.

He said the main aim of the SDF was to secure roads for their fighters before launching a campaign on Raqqa itself.

The SDF has been advancing on two fronts north of Raqqa -- pushing from the towns of Ain Issa and Suluk with support from U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

The group said on November 10 that it was on the verge of surrounding a wide area north of Raqqa.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP