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U.S.-Backed SDF Captures District In Campaign Against IS In Raqqa

A U.S.-backed Arab-Kurd coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants near Raqqa has captured the district of Al-Qadisia outside of the extremists' self-declared capital in Syria, military officials say.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took Al-Qadisia, west of Raqqa, after three days of intense fighting, the SDF said on June 25 amid reports of stiffening IS resistance.

The SDF began its drive against Raqqa -- the last IS stronghold inside Syria -- in early June after a monthslong campaign to encircle IS fighters inside the city.

The report of the gains comes on the same day that U.S.-led Iraqi government troops reported major advances against IS in Mosul, the group's capital in Iraq and its last stronghold in that country.

The loss of Raqqa and Mosul would represent major victories against IS, which captured large swathes of territory from Syrian and Iraqi government forces in 2014.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said on June 25 that IS resistance around Raqqa was increasing as the militants became more desperate.

"In the first two weeks [of the campaign], there was significant progress � very quick progress that was made," he said.

"The SDF in the advance have since hit some significant resistance from ISIS.... We are starting to see...better-emplaced defenses [closer to Raqqa]," he said, using another acronym for the IS group.

The U.S.-backed coalition has provided artillery and air support for the SDF around Raqqa.

The coalition has also reported that it has killed several IS leaders, including Turki Binali, a Bahraini cleric who was one of the group's most visible preachers and regularly appeared in its propaganda videos.

The United States has supported rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war.

Russia and Iran back Assad, while IS extremists are fighting against both sides.

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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