More than 4,000 ISIS militants are still fighting in Raqqa
Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition, said on Thursday that there are nearly 4,000 Islamic State (ISIS) militants fighting for Raqqa–the ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria.
“We believe there are 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters in Raqqa, including foreign fighters and various leadership figures,” he said.
“This is a city that holds special significance for the enemy,” Colonel Dorrian said. “They consider i their capital in Syria. So it’s not an area that they’re just going to give up very easily.”
He added that Raqqa remains a priority target for the coalition to liberate. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he added.
“With regard to enemy [ISIS] freedom of movement, the city [Raqqa] is being isolated. Each day, it gets more isolated as the Syrian Arab Coalition and [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces seize more territory from the enemy. At some point, the city will be very difficult for enemy fighters or leaders to leave,” he stated.
In an interview with ARA News, Jennifer Cafarella, Lead Intelligence Planner at the Institute for the Study of War, said: “If true, density of ISIS fighters in Raqqa is greater than Mosul, where the coalition reportedly faced 3,500-6,000 in much bigger city.”
Therefore, she says the fight for Raqqa will be most likely just as difficult as Mosul. “Unless for some reason ISIS decided to withdraw, then yes,” she said.
In Mosul itself, there are fewer than 1000 ISIS fighters left, after many of them were killed over months of intense fighting with the US-backed Iraqi forces.
“We think that there are fewer than a thousand fighters left in the city of Mosul– probably well short of a thousand fighters. But they are in the densest urban terrain of Mosul,” the coalition spokesperson said.
“And they’re going to be very difficult to get out and to attack. Because when in that type of dense urban terrain, a small number of fighters can control that territory because the canalized advance that the attacking force would need to take. So, it’ll be very difficult and dangerous fighting,” Col. Dorrian concluded.