Top Syrian Kurdish commander killed in push on IS-held Raqqa

  • AP, Beirut
  • Updated: Jun 05, 2016 20:14 IST
In this undated file image, fighters from the Islamic State group ride tanks during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. (AP)

A top Syrian Kurdish commander died Sunday, several days after sustaining injuries during a US-backed campaign to unseat the Islamic State group from its de-facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.

Abu Layla, who commanded a brigade inside the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, was hit by IS sniper fire on the outskirts of Manbij, an Islamic State group stronghold that controls the supply route between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the Kurdish website Rudaw said. He was evacuated by U.S. forces to a hospital in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, where he died.

The commander fought against IS militants in Kobani in early 2015, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. Those battles, the first major setback to the IS advance in northern Syria, were seen as instrumental to securing U.S. support for Kurdish forces in the country’s multi-layered conflict.

The SDF are now advancing on Manbij, 155 kilometers to the northwest of Raqqa, as Syrian government forces backed by Iranian, Lebanese and Russian firepower, advance on the IS capital from the south. It is unclear whether the twin offensives were coordinated.

Government and Russian airstrikes have meanwhile killed more than a dozen people in opposition-held parts of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and former commercial capital, activists said.

The strikes followed a day of intense rebel bombardment on government-held areas in the city, killing at least two dozen people.

The Civil Defense, a first responder group that operates in rebel-held areas, reported 50 airstrikes in Aleppo on Sunday. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, said the strikes killed at least 13 people. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll at 23.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said rebel fire on government-held areas killed 24 civilians in Aleppo on Saturday.

Aleppo has been divided between government and opposition control since 2012.

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