A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter rests near destroyed airplane parts inside Tabqa military airport after taking control of it from Islamic State fighters, west of Raqqa city, Syria April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said
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U.S.-backed forces fighting Daesh (ISIS) in Syria advanced to within 2 km of a key stronghold near the militant group's de facto capital of Raqqa Tuesday, and a counterattack by the militants was repulsed, officials said. The multiphased campaign by the Syria Democratic Forces, backed by airstrikes and military advisers from a U.S.-led coalition, ultimately aims to oust Daesh from Raqqa. Officials have given different estimates for how long the campaign will take, and the assault on Raqqa itself appears to have been delayed, after one high-ranking military official said it would begin at the start of April.Forces have advanced on the city from the north, east and west. Encircling and capturing Tabqa is a major part of the campaign as the city and dam comprise a strategic base for Daesh.
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