Freeing Raqa of last IS holdouts may take 'weeks': French minister

 06 Oct 2017 - 12:30

Freeing Raqa of last IS holdouts may take 'weeks': French minister
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Syrian fighters backed by US special forces, take a position on the eastern frontline of Raqa on October 5, 2017. AFP / BULENT KILIC


Paris: The battle to flush the Islamic State group of its last holdouts in the Syrian city of Raqa could drag on for "weeks", French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.

"It's probably a question of weeks," she told France Inter radio, adding: "It's a slow, difficult battle but which is nonetheless effective."

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, stormed IS's Syrian bastion in June and has since wrested 90 percent of the city from the jihadists.

Parly said the continuing fight for the city centre was "obviously the hardest".

France is part of the US-led coalition that has been pounding IS positions in Iraq and Syria from the air in order to help local forces flush out the extremists.

Parly estimated that around 500 French jihadists remained in Iraq or Syria.

"Many are thrown onto the frontlines. Those who want to flee are forced by Daesh to fight," she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.