(CNSNews.com) – Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared about 55 percent of Raqqa, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday, but “desperate and fanatical terrorists” – now using amphetamines to “maintain their murderous fervor” -- are making the SDF “bleed for every inch” of land.
“ISIS has had time to rig up thousands of fiendishly clever explosives and to dig extensive tunnels throughout the city,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition. “They are using these tunnels and improvised explosive devices to attack advancing SDF fighters, as well as noncombatants trying to flee their homes.”
Dillon said Syrian Democratic Forces this week repulsed an ISIS attempt to attack through the tunnels.
“The few ISIS terrorists the SDF managed to capture alive, and the even fewer who have surrendered, show vividly their desperation. They are malnourished, emaciated and, many of them, pocked with needle tracks from what is assessed as amphetamines they used to maintain their murderous fervor.”
Dillon estimated that around 2,500 ISIS fighters remain in Raqqa. He said this is not the first time coalition forces have encountered malnourished, emaciated ISIS fighters, but it is the first time he’s received reports of track marks on their arms, indicating intravenous drug use.
Dillon also said the ISIS has “centralized” its operations in Raqqa’s main hospital. “They have fortified the complex, created tunnels for access and are hiding among women and children who have nowhere else to go,” he said.
“The SDF are also determined and will take Raqqa from ISIS. But you can expect more brutal fighting, and it will not be any quicker than it will be easy.”
The coalition is supporting the SDF with airstrikes – more than 200 this week alone.
In Iraq, with the fighting ended in Mosul, Iraqi Federal Police continue to secure that city.
The fighting has now moved to ISIS targets in and around Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. Tal Afar is among the few ISIS strongholds remaining in Iraq.
“The coalition conducted more than 60 strikes against ISIS targets in and around Tal Afar in the last week, hitting defensive fighting positions, weapons caches and car bomb factories, among others,” Dillon said.
He also named the two American soldiers killed earlier this week as part of the effort to defeat ISIS:
“Sergeant Allen Stigler, 22, of Arlington, Texas, and Sergeant Roshain Brooks, 30, of Brooklyn, New York, artillerymen with the 82nd Airborne Division, were killed while conducting a counter-fire mission against an ISIS mortar site when an explosion occurred.
"There is zero indication that this incident was a result of enemy contact. An investigation is underway,” Dillon said.