Syria crisis: Isis preventing civilians from leaving stronghold in Raqqa and attempting to shut down internet as air strikes continue

Isis members and their families are reportedly fleeing the city for Mosul in neighbouring Iraq

Michael Day,Emma Gatten
Wednesday 18 November 2015 21:23
Isis fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria
Isis fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria

Isis is preventing civilians from leaving Raqqa and attempting to shut down internet in the city after three days of fierce air strikes. Bloggers continued to post and tweet updates about conditions in the jihadist group’s “capital” – even though many citizen journalists have already been tortured and killed.

Anti-Isis activist group Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS) reported that the 30 French air strikes on 15 November and seven more the next day had destroyed some targets, including a weapons cache and a security command that had still been in use by Isis.

Syria: French Air Force jets hit IS targets in Raqqa

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 33 Isis fighters had been killed in three days of strikes, and said Isis members and their families were reported to be fleeing the city for Mosul in neighbouring Iraq. But on 18 November at about 5pm local time, RBSS’s Twitter feed, @Raqqa_SL, said Isis was attempting to close down internet services and shut internet cafes. It said the terrorists were attempting “to take the satellite devices” in order to curb the flow of information from the beleaguered city.

Russia has also intensified its bombardment of the city in recent days, conducting a “mass strike” on 18 November, and the US conducted four strikes on Raqqa on 17 November. Seven civilians were killed and 8 injured in strikes on a fuel truck on 18 November, RBSS reported.

RBSS have described how Isis fighters usually fled at the first signs of an air strike. “They disappear and leave civilians exposed to death, even after they strike [Isis’s] ambulances,” one of the members of the group told The Independent yesterday.

He added that Syrian and Russian missiles had hit civilian areas, with residents being used by Isis as human shields. “The strikes have hit Isis,” he said, “but not enough.” He added: “Nobody is allowed to leave Raqqa anymore.”

On 17 November, RBSS tweeted: “We don’t like to see people afraid from the Airstrikes and Explosions but we support any action [that] will take #Isis out from #Raqqa.”

The group added that French air strikes had allowed women to “smell fresh air without their veils on” because the Isis fighters who would usually scream at them would have “fled like rats” at the first signs of aerial bombardment.

But on 18 November one of the bloggers said most of the civilians in Raqqa no longer welcomed the air strikes. He told The Independent that it had become “impossible to tell who is doing the bombing, and all has become a horror”.

Another tweet said: “The world has to know we’re living between the control of Isis on the ground and the bombardment that arrives from above.”

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