French defense minister sees Raqqa battle starting in coming days


PARIS (Reuters) - A battle against Islamic State to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa is likely to start in the coming days, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.


"France has always said that Raqqa was a major objective," Le Drian told CNews television station. "Today, one can say that Raqqa is encircled, that the battle for Raqqa will start in the coming days."


"It will be a very hard battle, but a battle that is going to be of utmost importance," he added.


Earlier this week, the U.S. Pentagon department had said that the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State had for the first time airdropped local ground forces behind enemy lines near the ISIS-held town of Tabqa in northern Syria, opening up a new front in the campaign to recapture Raqqa.


(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

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