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U.S.-Backed Syrian Forces Encircle Islamic State In Raqqa Stronghold

U.S.-backed forces have completely encircled the Islamic State extremist group's self-proclaimed capital in northern Syria after cutting off the last remaining escape route, a monitoring group and military officials said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, "have completely surrounded and besieged the Islamist militants inside Al-Raqqa city from all sides," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on June 29.

The gains for anti-IS forces in Syria came as Iraqi forces announced the recapture of an iconic mosque in IS's last major Iraqi bastion Mosul, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to declare "the end" of the "fake" extremist state.

Raqqa has been under IS control since 2014.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, a Pentagon spokesman, said on June 29 that U.S.-backed forces have ousted IS from 7.5 square miles in and around Raqqa this week.

"ISIS fighters, abandoned by their leadership, are being pressured by the SDF from multiple axes around the city," he said. "The SDF now control all high-speed avenues of approach into al-Raqqa from the south."

Kurdish officials said more than 4,000 IS fighters remain inside the city.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa