Believing itself to be soon under siege, and in preparation for an expected attack from the Syrian Democratic Forces, IS has declared emergency in the Northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
“We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqa, whatever that means,” Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters Friday.
Raqqa was one of Syria’s most liberal cities before it came under ISIS control. ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), or IS, Islamic State as it wishes to be called, declared Raqqa it’s capital and based its headquarters there.
IS jihadis want a global Islamic caliphate, a world with no religious boundaries. It has carried out terror attacks including the November 2015 one in Paris. Head of the organisation Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, key person in this war on terrorism, is believed to be holed up in Raqqa and the Syrian Democratic Forces and allied groups hope to capture him and in effect cripple the terrorist organisation.
The ISIS headquarters have been under air attack from French forces for weeks now and it’s building has been severely damaged.
Also Syrian Democratic Forces, along with the Syrian Arab Coalition have managed to capture and reach both to the city’s east and to their west. Both of these areas have become increasingly secure, and the SDF is better able to generate its own fighting power in these areas.
The city has been under attacks for months. Now commanders of the SDF and allied groups are ready to mount a final offensive against ISIL in a final joint operation to rescue Raqqa from IS control. The coalition believes the IS is now feeling hemmed in and threatened.
IS is moving troops to key areas and also repositioning weapons and combat capabilities and covering up certain sensitive areas to prevent them from being targeted.
“We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should.” Warren said.
U.S. military also note the movement of fighters and equipment in Raqqa could give overhead surveillance aircraft an improved chance of finding and targeting them.
“So, rightfully, ISIL understands that their days are increasingly numbered. We are going to continue to keep this pressure on them and we expect to see them collapse eventually.”
The U.S. has not officially said it believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi still remains in or around Raqqa, but several officials say that has continued to be a working assumption. However, they are monitoring any potential intelligence that he could be in other locations as well.
“Baghdadi remains extremely careful” about his personal security, one U.S. defense official told CNN.
The U.S. will continue to try to find him, the official said. But even if he is located and captured or killed, the U.S. assessment is that it would not immediately change the scope and capability of ISIS operations, because there are other leaders ready to step in.