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article imageSyria forces impose 'curfew' in Raqa fearing instability, IS

By AFP     Jun 24, 2018 in World

Security forces in Syria's Raqa announced a two-day curfew starting Sunday, citing instability and fears of Islamic State group attacks in the jihadists' former stronghold.

But they also used the curfew to act against a rival rebel group in the northern city, according to the targeted faction and a war monitor.

IS was kicked out of its de facto Syrian capital in October by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which then set up police units to secure the city.

On Sunday, the Raqa Internal Security Forces said they had received "information that terrorist groups working on behalf of (IS)... have entered Raqa city to carry out attacks against stability and security".

It therefore decided to put in place "a state of emergency and a curfew in Raqa city starting at 5:00 am (0200 GMT) on Sunday June 24, 2018, until 5:00 am on Tuesday".

A monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 5,000 SDF fighters had been deployed in Raqa and parts of the surrounding province for a huge security operation.

IS lost Raqa after four months of ferocious fighting and bombing by the SDF and the US-led coalition that left the city in ruins.

The SDF has since whittled down IS territory elsewhere in Syria's north and east to just a handful of isolated pockets, but security incidents around Raqa itself have risen in recent weeks.

On Friday, IS claimed its first attack in Raqa province since being ousted, announcing through a propaganda media channel that it had detonated a roadside bomb northeast of the city.

An SDF fighter was also killed on June 15 at a checkpoint north of Raqa, in what the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said was an IS attack.

And earlier this month, five police officers linked to the SDF were killed in a roadside blast during a routine patrol in Raqa city.

The group did not claim responsibility for either incident.

Tensions have also been high in the city because of demonstrations calling for the Syrian government to return to Raqa.

- Raids and arrests -

Raqa security forces announce a two-day curfew in the Syrian city citing fear of possible attacks by...
Raqa security forces announce a two-day curfew in the Syrian city citing fear of possible attacks by the Islamic State group

On Sunday, the SDF said in a statement that the curfew was put in place because of rising instability, including "terrorist operations" and the protests.

The curfew was accompanied by early morning raids that "targeted terrorist cells and groups aimed at rocking the city's security and stability", it said.

"A number of terrorists were arrested and large amounts of weapons and ammunitions were seized, as well as documents confirming the responsibility of a multiple factions in the explosions and terrorist operations that targeted Raqa in the recent period," it added.

Among those targeted was the Raqa Revolutionaries Brigade, an Arab faction whose fighters are from the city and who previously fought alongside the Kurdish-dominated SDF.

The Brigade posted a statement on its Facebook page Sunday saying its headquarters in Raqa had been surrounded by the SDF.

The SDF on Sunday arrested more than 90 members of the Brigade, the Observatory said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the curfew had been imposed because of "tensions" between the SDF and the Brigade "more than the IS attacks".

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