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Syrian Children Fleeing Raqqa ‘Tormented’ By Years Under IS Control

Children escaping from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, which has been held by Islamic State (IS) militants since 2014, have been "tormented" by years of living under the extremists' rule, a U.S.-based charity says.

Save the Children on August 28 also said a bombing campaign has increased the nightmares for young people in the self-declared IS capital, which is under siege by U.S.-backed Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters.

"Raqqa's children might look normal on the outside, but inside many are tormented by what they've seen," the charity's Syrian director, Sonia Khush, said.

"The children of Raqqa didn't ask for the nightmares and memories of seeing loved ones die right in front of them," she added. "We risk condemning a generation of children to a lifetime of suffering unless their mental health needs are addressed."

Save the Children said it could take decades for the young people to overcome psychological difficulties.

Raqqa was taken by IS fighters as they captured large amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring an Islamic caliphate in areas they controlled.

A U.S.-backed offensive pushed the extremists out of their self-declared Iraqi capital of Mosul and are pressuring them elsewhere in the country.

The Syrian Democratic Forces -- an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters -- have encircled Raqqa and are preparing for the final assault, backed by U.S.-led air power.

An estimated 20,000 people -- about half of them children -- are trapped in the city behind IS lines as the extremists attempt to hold out in the face of the U.S.-backed coalition offensive.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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