US-backed forces fighting Islamic State enter Syria stronghold of Raqqa

Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the United States have entered Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, setting the stage for what could be a months-long campaign to reclaim the militants’ largest stronghold in Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, breached the outer city limits of Raqqa, seizing a 1,000-year-old fortress in the west and a neighbourhood on the eastern side of the city, two days after announcing the start of the offensive.

“Raqqa to them is the capital of the caliphate, and they [Isis] have fortified it to a great extent,” Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesman for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia taking part in the assault, told the Guardian.