US-backed rebels capture north-west neighbourhood in Raqqa

A US-backed Syrian opposition force said yesterday it had captured a north-western neighbourhood of the Isil group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa, the second district to fall into their hands in days after the rebels launched a wide offensive to gain control of the extremists’ final stronghold.
US military officials said they had no information to confirm or deny a report Isil ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in an air strike in the city.
Independent experts were expressing scepticism about the fast-spreading claims of the terrorist leader’s death, which reportedly was broadcast late on Saturday on Syrian state television.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said its fighters captured the neighbourhood of Romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 Isil gunmen dead, including a commander known as Abu Khattab al-Tunsi.
Raqqa was among the first cities captured by Isil back in January 2014 and has been the home of some of the group’s most prominent leaders.
The battle for the city is expected to be extended and bloody, and could mark a major turning point in the war against the extremists.

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