Syrian Troops Advance on Raqqa, as Islamic State Militants Pressed on Four Fronts
Government forces close in on extremists’ de facto capital as Iraqi forces, rebels and al Qaeda Affiliate Nusra Front attack ISIS in other areasAssociated Press
June 4, 2016 3:07 p.m. ET
BEIRUT—Syrian troops on Saturday reached the edge of the northern province of Raqqa, home to the de facto capital of Islamic State militant group’s self-styled caliphate, in a push that leaves the extremists fighting fierce battles on four fronts in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, controls large swaths of territory in both countries and is fighting Syrian troops, U.S.-backed fighters and opposition militants in northern Syria. It also is battling an offensive by Iraqi government forces on its stronghold of Fallujah.
The Syrian government hasn’t had a presence in Raqqa since August 2014, when Islamic State fighters captured the Tabqa air base and killed scores of government soldiers. The provincial capital, Raqqa, became the first city under the militants’ control.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops reached the “administrative border” of Raqqa province under the cover of Russian airstrikes. It said that during three days of fighting 26 Islamic State fighters and nine Syian troops and pro-government gunmen were killed.