Final assault on Daesh in Raqqa to 'start Sunday'

Mayadeen in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor is seen as the jihadist group's "security and military capital" in Syria, and its loss would deal "a severe blow" to the jihadists, according to a Syrian military source.

Elite forces of the Syrian Arab Army are pushing hard on the Islamic State's capital, capturing half the city from the militant group in a matter of hours, Al-Masdar News reports.

Daesh has lost swathes of territory to the SDF and to a rival offensive by Syria's army and allied forces this year, and has fallen back on the fertile Euphrates valley area downstream of Raqqa.

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ISIS is thought to have around 250 fighters left in the city - and they are holed up in a handful of buildings including the main hospital and the sports stadium. "But God made me leave all this rubbish behind and come to Syria for the afterlife".

The Islamic State has for the first time called on women to carry out terror attacks and wage jihad against the West, the UK's Independent reported Saturday.

For three years Raqa was the de facto Syrian capital of Islamic State's self-declared caliphate, a centre of operations where it oversaw the management of much of eastern, central and northern Syria and planned attacks abroad. Counter-radicalisation efforts to prevent the exodus of disaffected young Britons has focused on the young and marginalised who were seen as most at risk from the influence of extremists.

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But government officials said it wasn't clear immediately there was justification to waive the law for national defense. Organizers announced Thursday the event would be played on the campus of Coastal Carolina from Nov. 16-19.

The Kurdish-led forces launched an offensive against IS in Raqqa in early June, under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S. -led coalition.

US officials have previously said that Islamic State had relocated some of its diminished command and propaganda structures to al-Mayadin as it was forced from territory elsewhere.

On Sunday a Syrian military source said they had encircled Islamic State fighters in the city of al-Mayadin, one of the jihadists' last strongholds in the area.

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Commanders directing the battle in Raqqa have said that Islamic State fighters have taken civilian hostages and are using sniper fire, booby traps and tunnels to slow the SDF advance.

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