Rights groups say 300,000 residents are trapped in the city of Raqqa in a province with the same name as Kurdish forces have launched an offensive to liberate it from Daesh (Islamic State), AFP reported Saturday.
Nearly 100,000 others are also reported stranded following an offensive by Daesh militants to regain territory lost to Syrian forces in Aleppo Province along the Turkish border, according to the rights groups.
An anti-Daesh activist group called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) said the residents of the city have been paying smugglers $400 for each person to facilitate their escape.
Raqqah is the group’s self-proclaimed “capital.” Daesh took over the city in March 2013.
During the offensive they launched in northern Aleppo, Daesh extremists cut a major road between the militant-held towns of Azaz and Marea close to the Turkish border, besieging 15,000 people in Marea and triggering a potential “disaster,” according to Azaz-based journalist Maamoun Khateeb.
Pablo Marco, the regional operations manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), also said, “We are terribly concerned… about the estimated 100,000 people trapped between the Turkish border and active front lines.”
Daesh fighters have been losing ground in both Syria and Iraq, where they have been involved in a campaign of terror over the past years.
The militant group has tried to remain on the offensive by carrying out devastating bombings, including in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and Syrian towns.
The unfolding skirmishes and human tragedy came as world powers have been attempting to salvage a shaky truce agreed between the Syrian government and non-extremist militants in February.
The Syrian conflict started in March 2011. United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the crisis since then.
More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million is said to have been displaced since the militancy campaign began.