Beirut, Jun 29 (AFP) The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces today sealed off the last route used by the Islamic State group to flee an offensive on its Syrian bastion Raqa, a monitor said. Also Read - Syrian Kurds Urge US to Press Turkey Over Ceasefire Violation

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, SDF fighters captured the villages of Kasrat Afnan and Kasab on the southern bank of the Euphrates River. Also Read - Turkey to Stop Military Operations in Syria For Five Days, US Vice-President Mike Pence Announces Ceasefire Deal

“They thereby cut the last route IS used to withdraw from Raqa towards territory it controls in the Syrian desert and in Deir Ezzor province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Also Read - Sikkim Assembly Election Results 2019: SKM Turns Tables, Ends Over Two Decades of Pawan Chamling-led SDF Rule

Backed by US-led air strikes, the SDF spent months chipping away at IS territory around Raqa.

It first broke into the city on June 6, and has since captured two eastern and two western districts while bearing down on the north.

But their progress on Raqa’s southern approach had been much slower.

With today’s advance, “the SDF has been able to completely encircle Raqa,” Abdel Rahman said.

IS overran Raqa in 2014, transforming it into the de facto Syrian capital of its self-declared “caliphate,” which it declared three years ago on June 29.

The city became infamous as the scene of some of the group’s worst atrocities, including public beheadings, and is thought to have been a hub for planning attacks overseas.

The United Nations has expressed concern for up to 100,000 civilians it says are still trapped in the city. (AFP) KJ

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.