Battle for ISIS Capital: U.S.-backed Forces Launch Long-awaited Raqqa Assault

The battle will be 'fierce because Daesh [ISIS] will die to defend their so-called capital,' Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman says

Members of the SDF stand in the village of Hazima on the northern outskirts of ISIS' Syrian bastion of Raqqa, June 6, 2017.

A U.S.-backed attack by the Syrian Democratic Forces to capture the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS began on Monday, the SDF militia told Reuters.

"The campaign started yesterday to liberate Raqqa city," SDF spokesman Talal Silo said from Syria in a telephone interview. He said the attack had started from the north, east and west of the city.

Silo said that the battle will be "fierce because Daesh [ISIS] will die to defend their so-called capital."

The commanding general of the U.S.-led coalition struck a similar tone, saying the fight would be "long and difficult" but would deliver a "decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate."

"It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin 'capitals' in both Iraq and Syria," a coalition statement cited Lt. Gen Steve Townsend as saying, in a reference to the Iraqi city of Mosul.

"We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England," said Townsend. "ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq and Syria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand," he said.

At least 22 people were killed, including children, and more than 59 were wounded in a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on May 22. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.

"Once ISIS is defeated in both Mosul and (Raqqa), there will still be a lot of hard fighting ahead, but this coalition is strong and committed to the complete annihilation of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria," Townsend said.