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France to provide airstrikes in battle for Raqqa

AP , Sunday 6 Nov 2016
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France's defense minister says it will provide airstrikes to aid an offensive against the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

Jean-Yves Le Drian told French radio Europe 1 on Sunday that "local territorial forces" should retake Raqqa, with air support from French, American and other coalition forces but no foreign ground troops.

The Syria Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group that includes Arab fighters and is backed by U.S. air power, announced the offensive earlier on Sunday. Raqqa is the de facto capital of the extremist group's self-styled Islamic caliphate.

France has long suspected that IS planned last year's Paris attacks in Raqqa.

Le Drian linked the battle for Raqqa with the Iraqi offensive against the IS-held city of Mosul. The two cities are the largest urban areas still under IS control.

France began striking IS targets in Iraq in 2014 and in Syria the following year, including in Raqqa.

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