U.S.-backed group launches offensive north of ISIS capital in Syria

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BEIRUT, Lebanon — A U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces announced Tuesday a push into territory north of ISIS’ de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.

The battle Tuesday is meant to retake that area, Kurdish officials said.

The Democratic Syria Forces and Kurdish forces announced the offensive on social media and through various announcements.

The activist group “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” tweeted that a fierce clash was taking place in the northern outskirts of Raqqa.

Idriss Nassan, a spokesman for the Kurds in Kobani, Syria, said there had already been some clashes in the villages around Ain al Issa, 30 miles north of Raqqa.

Russia is ready to coordinate efforts with the U.S.-led coalition and the Kurdish forces in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

“I cannot say how real reports are that such actions have already begun, but we are ready for such coordination,” Lavrov said in Uzbekistan.

U.S. Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the coalition has “always been focused on evicting ISIS” from Raqqa. “We will continue to support the (Syrian Democratic Forces) as they conduct ground operations to further isolate the city.”

He added that the coalition will continue to provide air support in the battle against ISIS.

Battles outside Raqqa coincide with an intense battle against ISIS in Falluja, Iraq.

Iraq’s military, part of the U.S. coalition, launched an offensive Monday to reclaim from ISIS the traditionally Sunni-dominated city about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Tens of thousands of residents may be trapped in the city, the United Nations has said.