The operation to liberate the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa has entered its third month, and while the U.S. and its partners have largely depleted the enemy ranks – but lethal danger lurks throughout the city.
There are about 1,500 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa, a big reduction from around 5,000 less than two months ago, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve – the U.S.-led coalition tasked to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But Raqqa is still teeming with landmines and booby traps, many set by fleeing jihadists.
“Eighty percent of the engagement the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has had has been with IEDs, whether they be vehicle-born IEDs, inside houses, static vehicles and even IEDs planted inside corpses,” Dillion told Fox News. “Those have been the proponents of how ISIS is fighting in Raqqa so far.”
The SDF is the primary ground fighting force the U.S. is partnering with to defeat ISIS in Syria. The roughly 55,000-strong group – a coalescence of both Arab and Kurdish combatants with a significant portion of them from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – have endured countless casualties in the bid to free the self-styled caliphate capital.
Compared to Mosul, the recently liberated Iraqi city in which ISIS relied heavily on civilians used as human shields, Dillion observed they have seen less of those tactics and more of a focus on bombs and blasts.
“There is less coherence in direct fire engagements, less leadership and a lot more disarray in…