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Monitor: Syrian Kurds Retake Villages Near Raqqa

FILE - A Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighter walks near residents who had fled Tel Abyad, as they re-enter Syria from Turkey after the YPG took control of the area, at Tel Abyad town, Raqqa governorate, Syria, June 23, 2015.

Syrian Kurdish fighters have recaptured more than 10 villages seized by Islamic State north of its de facto capital of Raqqa city, aided by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday.

Fighters from the ultra-hardline Islamist group were, however, still in control of the town of Ain Issa, 50 kilometers (30 miles), north of Raqqa city, which the jihadists seized from the YPG militia in an attack Monday, the Observatory reported.

That attack on YPG-held areas followed an intensification of airstrikes on Raqqa city over the weekend, which U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday were aimed at disrupting the militants' ability to respond to YPG advances north of Raqqa.

Ain Issa, Syria
Ain Issa, Syria

The YPG, a militia operating mostly in predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria toward the Turkish border, has emerged as the only significant partner in Syria for U.S.-led alliance fighting to tackle the Islamic State group both there and in Iraq.

The Observatory, a British-based organization reporting on Syria's four-year-old civil war, said the coalition had played an "effective role" in helping YPG forces recover 11 villages northeast of Ain Issa.

Syrian rebel group

The YPG, backed by small Syrian rebel groups, has made significant gains against Islamic State fighters in Raqqa province in recent weeks, seizing Tel Abyad at the Turkish border June 15 before advancing south to Ain Issa.

The YPG captured Ain Issa June 23.

While the YPG has shown itself to be a potent force in the fight against Islamic State, its effectiveness is seen to diminish beyond the predominantly Kurdish areas it was set up to defend in northern and northeastern Syria.

The United States aims to train and equip Syrian rebel fighters it deems politically moderate in order to fight Islamic State in Syria. But the Pentagon said June 18 the effort was moving more slowly than expected.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States would do more to train and equip "the moderate opposition.”