PARIS: The international coalition targeting Islamic State extremists should move on to take the group’s headquarters in Raqqa in Syria once the battle in Mosul in Iraq has been won, a top US official said on Friday.
Tens of thousands of troops and militiamen, backed by coalition air power and special forces, launched an assault on Mosul on Monday aimed at wresting back the last city in Iraq under the militant’s control.
French President Francois Hollande warned Thursday that IS fighters were leaving the city for Syria to regroup in their de facto capital Raqqa.
After a string of attacks and terror plots in France apparently coordinated from Syria, Paris is keen to secure support for continuing the offensive to crush IS’s territorial base.
“We need to do both things, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria,” US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told radio station RTL in Paris, speaking in French.
“After Mosul, we’ll look at Raqqa, absolutely. Raqqa is the most urgent, that’s the town where Daesh (IS) plans its attacks overseas. Raqqa is the real capital,” he added.
The 7,500-strong US-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria, as well as providing training, arms and equipment to forces opposed to the jihadists.