BEIRUT (AP) – A Syrian Kurdish-led force fighting the Islamic State group north of the country is on the verge of surrounding a wide area north of the IS stronghold of Raqqa, a spokeswoman said. Cihan Ehmed of the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces told The Associated Press that its fighters are advancing on two fronts north of Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS’ self-declared caliphate.
The push from Ein Issa and Suluk north of Raqqa has been ongoing for days under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. The SDF, which includes Kurdish, Arab, Syriac and Turkmen fighters, say they have committed 30,000 fighters to the offensive aiming to eventual recapture the city of Raqqa.
BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi troops fired at positions held by the Islamic State group in and around the northern city of Mosul but did not advance as they regrouped and cleared neighborhoods once occupied by the extremists, military officials said. Troops are screening residents fleeing from Mosul, searching for any IS militants trying to sneak out among the more than 34,000 civilians fleeing to displacement camps and host communities in nearby provinces.
Amnesty International reported allegations against security forces of arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and ill-treatment of prisoners, including an account that up to six people were “extrajudicially executed” in late October over suspected ties to IS.
MOSCOW (AP) – A top Russian diplomat and Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said that Russian experts were in contact with some members of President-elect Donald Trump’s staff during the presidential campaign, a period in which the United States accused Russia of hacking into Democratic Party emails systems.
A spokeswoman for Trump denied the assertion, but it raised the ongoing suspicions about the president-elect’s relationship with Putin’s government that had dogged his campaign with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Russia is hopeful that a Trump presidency will herald improved relations with the United States. But, in a sign of the cold realism that Putin is known for, Moscow is not betting on an immediate drastic turnaround in the strained relationship.