ISIL counterattack drives Syrian forces out of Raqqa

Jihadists of the Islamic State group drove Syrian regime troops out of Raqa province on Monday, killing dozens of fighters in a lightning counter-attack, a monitoring group said.

The attack was mounted late on Sunday in response to a regime offensive in the IS stronghold of Raqa launched on June 3 that advanced about 20 kilometres (12 miles) toward the town of Tabqa, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Government troops, backed by Russian air strikes, in early June pushed into Raqa for the first time since 2014, aiming for the country's largest dam at Tabqa on the Euphrates River.

"Daesh (IS) has managed to drive out regime troops from the administrative borders of Raqa province after a fierce counter-offensive," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It said the jihadists had sent hundreds of reinforcements from their de facto capital of Raqa city to defend Tabqa, which also has an air base, located 50 kilometres to the west.

"More than 40 members of the pro-regime forces were killed," said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a vast network of sources on the ground for its information.
An initial IS offensive on Sunday failed but a second attack seized many positions southwest of Tabqa.

On a separate front, IS also launched a surprise assault from another stronghold in Raqa province, killing residents of two villages it recaptured from US-backed fighters.

IS had dispatched a small group of jihadists -- including one driving an explosives-laden car -- into villages southeast of Manbij.
While ISIL is still looking at defeat in Fallujah and in Sirte in Libya it is stubbornly hanging on to the area around its base of operations.  This counterattack represents a setback for both the Syrians and Russians as well as the US.

The success of the Fallujah operation also looks like it was probably exaggerated.  The BBC reports that Iraqi forces only hold about a third of the city.


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