Syrian forces backed by the United States have seized all major roadways into the Islamic State de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, signaling a nearly completed siege on the terrorist stronghold, U.S. officials said Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
According AP reports, a spokesman from the U.S.-led coalition said Syrian Democratic Forces now control all high-speed routes into Raqqa from the south. The SDF fighters, led by Kurdish forces, have been advancing into Raqqa from the east, north, and west since May.
The campaign to take the city, which began in earnest on June 6, has resulted in the coalition destroying all the bridges over the Euphrates River and taking control of the two dams that remain as the only crossing points over the river, according to U.S.-led coalition spokesman Col. Joe Scrocca. It is estimated that 2,500 ISIS fighters remain in the city.
“South of the Euphrates River, the SDF now control all high-speed routes into Raqqa,” Scrocca said, adding that moving in toward the Euphrates from the east would have Raqqa wholly surrounded, as was the plan from the beginning.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an SDF unit has been capturing villages across the Euphrates in the Kasret al-Faraj area.
“IS has no other choice now but to surrender or fight to the end,” Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said.
The Islamic State seized Raqqa in July 2014, making it the terrorist faction's de-facto headquarters. Surrounding the city figuratively cuts the head off the snake and denies escape routes to the secondary ISIS stronghold in Deir el-Zour, south of Raqqa.
On Wednesday, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said that a "steady stream" of Islamic State leaders are abandoning their forces as they attempt to escape from the oncoming coalition troops, some "successfully."
Despite the progress coalition forces are making, Scrocca warns that the fight to take Raqqa has just begun and that there is still much fighting to be done within the city itself.
This news comes on the heels of a Friday report from CNN that Iraqi forces captured the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" three years ago, launching a brutal campaign to eliminate the borders of the surrounding areas to form one state under ISIS rule.
Recently, footage from the fighting on the front lines to retake Raqqa surfaced, showing a female Kurdish sharpshooter from the coalition narrowly avoiding being shot by an ISIS sniper.