The Latest: US coalition: IS in Raqqa left with small arms

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The Latest: US coalition: IS in Raqqa left with small arms
The Latest: US coalition: IS in Raqqa left with small arms

BEIRUT (AP) – The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

The U.S-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the militants remaining in the Syrian city of Raqqa are likely left with only small arms to fight for the sliver of land they still control there.

The coalition says in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Saturday that IS militants still in Raqqa are completely cut off from their leadership and likely have only pistols, rifles, light machine guns and a dwindling supply of ammunition,

Despite this assessment, the coalition says it expects difficult days ahead until Raqqa, once the militants’ de facto capital, is retaken. Earlier this week, the coalition estimated that 300 to 400 militants remained in the city. On Friday, a local official said an estimated 100 militants surrendered.

This comes as U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces says the final battle for Raqqa is underway. A spokesman for the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of the SDF, Nouri Mahmoud, says IS extremists still in Raqqa are mostly suicide bombers and special units that go behind enemy lines.

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12:40 p.m.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants says “difficult fighting” is expected in the days ahead in the battle to capture Syria’s northern city of Raqqa, once considered the de facto capital of the extremist group.

A coalition statement emailed to The Associated Press on Saturday says that it will continue to support Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces until the Islamic State militants are completely defeated. It declined to give a timeline for the complete defeat of IS in Raqqa.

The SDF Kurdish-led forces have been battling for Raqqa since June, backed by U.S. coalition airstrikes, intelligence and advisers on the ground.

SDF officials say the final battle for the city is on, amid reports that scores of IS militants have surrendered. Civilians have also filtered out of the few remaining neighborhoods in the hands of IS. U.S. officials have reported intense bombing campaign in the last few hours.

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11:10 a.m.

A spokesman for the U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria says they are waging the “final” battle to uproot the extremists from the northern city of Raqqa.

Mustafa Bali, the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said on Saturday that this final battle could take hours or days.

Losing Raqqa, once the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, would be a major blow to the militant group.

Bali says IS militants are desperately fighting in a number of neighborhoods in the city.

The battle for Raqqa began in June, with heavy street-by-street fighting amid intense U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and shelling. The battle has dragged in the face of stiff resistance from the militants and civilians trapped in the city.

This frame grab from a video provided on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 by Turkey-based Kurdish Mezopotamya agency media outlet that is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows Syrian civilians run on a damaged street as they fleeing from the areas that still controlled by the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria. Scores of civilians including women and children are fleeing the last few remaining neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa, ahead of an anticipated final push by U.S.-backed fighters seeking to liberate the city. (Mezopotamya Agency, via AP)
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