U.S.-backed Syrian militia captures key road out of Raqqa

The U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces say they’ve taken control of the only highway connecting the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa to the province of Deir ez-Zor.

Members of the Kurdish People Defense Units, or YPG, militia, which is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, are seen in Tel Abyad, Syria, after an operation in Raqqa on June 23, 2015. The SDF on Sunday captured a road connecting the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa to the Deir ez-Zor province, where the militant Islamist group has a strong presence. File Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA
Members of the Kurdish People Defense Units, or YPG, militia, which is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, are seen in Tel Abyad, Syria, after an operation in Raqqa on June 23, 2015. The SDF on Sunday captured a road connecting the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa to the Deir ez-Zor province, where the militant Islamist group has a strong presence. File Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA

The SDF on Sunday also captured a town east of Raqqa from the Islamic State in its effort to free the city from the militant Islamist group’s control.

The SDF relaunched its offensive to capture Raqqa on Sunday after a one-week break. The militia — made up of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and Turkmen fighters — is attempting to isolate the city from Deir ez-Zor, where the Islamic State also has a strong presence.

The militia is working to capture territory along the Euphrates River en route to Raqqa. Since January 2014, the Islamic State has used Raqqa as its base of operations, officials said.

“Our troops cut off the road between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in the ‘Wrath of Euphrates’ operation,” the SDF said in a statement. “In the past week, we had a chance to regroup our forces and bring them to a high level of readiness.”

An SDF commander told VoA News the militia captured at least seven villages in Deir ez-Zor on Sunday after intense clashes with the Islamic State.

“Our advances on IS in Deir ez-Zor have been very rapid, and we expect to liberate larger areas this week,” the commander said.

By Andrew V. Pestano