A convoy of Islamic State militants. Photo: AP/file
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—A convoy of vehicles carrying Islamic State (ISIS) militants and their families have reportedly arrived in Raqqa, Syria
“10 Buses and 35 SUV Chevrolet With Iraqi Plates arrived Raqqa full with ISIS fighters and their families,” tweeted the credible activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) on Thursday.
It is unknown at this time where in Iraq the militants allegedly came from. Iraqi forces have recently been deployed to both Anbar province and the Mosul area.
Iraqi, Kurdish, and international coalition forces are gearing up for the largest offensive against the terrorist group yet – liberating the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. On Wednesday, a convoy of armoured vehicles and artillery pieces belonging to Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism forces arrived on the Khazir frontline north of Mosul.
A 30,000-strong force will participate in the military operation, which is expected to be launched this month.
Many ISIS leaders have fled the city with their families in recent months in anticipation of the military offensive, Iraq’s then Minister of Defence, Khalid al-Obeidi said in July, noting that most were going to Syria.
Others have deserted the militant group and fled, with Turkey the most popular destination. “This very morning, three ISIS fighters have fled to Turkey,” the Mosul Eye, a blogger in Mosul and one of the few sources of information from the city, told Rudaw English earlier this month. They were local recruits, he added.
The Iraqi army is also preparing an offensive to clear the last remaining territories under ISIS control in Anbar province. Last week, the army deployed about 3,000 troops to the Syrian border.
RBSS was formed by a group of activists in April 2014 with the aim of documenting ISIS abuses in Raqqa, the militant group’s self-declared capital. Their members in the city risk death in their reporting that has shed light on the multitude of abuses carried out by ISIS.
They are one of the few reliable sources of information in the ISIS stronghold. At least two of their members have been killed by the terrorist group for their reporting.
RBSS was awarded an International Press Freedom Award in 2015 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.