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Monitor: Islamic State Less Visible in Syrian Stronghold

  • Reuters

Map showing Raqqa, Syria

Map showing Raqqa, Syria

The hardline Islamic State group has installed surveillance cameras in its Syrian stronghold Raqqa city because it does not appear to have enough members to patrol the streets, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing activists on the ground, said Islamic State appeared to have sent members from Raqqa into battle in other parts of Syria, leading to a reduction in patrols of its self-appointed religious police in the northern city.

Raqqa is Islamic State's defacto capital for territory that spreads across Syria and Iraq. The group has been put under pressure across northern Syria by Kurdish YPG forces and allied Syrian rebels, as well as U.S.-led airstrikes.

On Wednesday, Kurdish forces said they had recovered full control of a town on the Turkish border further north after Islamic State fighters raided its outskirts the day before in preparation for a larger assault.

In Raqqa city, Islamic State has enforced a strict rule based on its ultra-hardline interpretation of Islam.

This has included public killings of people accused of violations, banning alcohol and cigarettes as well as establishing a strict head-to-toe dress code for women.

The Britain-based Observatory, which collects information from sources on the ground, said the cameras were also installed to help protect the group's senior figures in the city, who are concerned about informants passing information to its enemies.

Islamic State is concerned that people in Raqqa are giving away the locations of its leaders and their bases to U.S.-led forces bombing the group, the Observatory's head Rami Abdulrahman said.

The jihadists enforce tough controls on communications in the city. They also run public services such as electricity and water, pay salaries, control traffic, and are in charge of nearly everything from bakeries to schools.

The Observatory said Islamic State had been directing services such as electricity to the areas where its leaders in Raqqa live while other parts were cut off.