A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have set their sights on Tabqa and the adjacent dam as part of their broader offensive for the city of Raqqa, the Syrian heart of the jihadists’ self-styled “caliphate” since 2014.

Supported by US-led coalition air strikes and special forces advisers, the SDF surrounded Tabqa in early April. On Monday, April 24, they entered it for the first time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

“They seized control of several points in the town’s south and were advancing on its western edges,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Tabqa sits on a key supply route about 55 km west of Raqqa, and served as an important IS command base, housing the group’s main prison. According to the Syrian Economic Task Force, a Dubai-based think tank, Tabqa is home to 85,000 people including IS fighters from other areas.

The assault on Tabqa began in late March when SDF forces and their US-led coalition allies were airlifted behind IS lines.

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