ISIS claimed responsibility on Friday for an attack on U.S.-backed forces near Raqqa, the militant group’s de-facto capital in Syria. The attack took place on Thursday as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters—advanced into an ISIS stronghold in the Homs province. ISIS claimed that two armored vehicles were destroyed and 53 members of the SDF were killed in the attack, though an SDF spokeswoman, Nisreen Abdullah, said their estimate was exaggerated. Telling reporters that ISIS was “facing collapse” in Raqqa, Abdullah argued that the militant group had inflated the death toll in order to “boost the morale of its fighters.”
While ISIS continues to wage attacks against SDF fighters in the region, it has been steadily losing control of Raqqa following the launch of a U.S.-backed military campaign in 2016. On June 6, the SDF announced the start of an offensive to overtake Raqqa city, with troops attacking from the north, east, and west. By Wednesday, the SDF said they had captured 40 percent of Raqqa and that ISIS militants had begun to retreat. “We don’t see any significant counterattacks,” Dirk Smith, a deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition, told USA Today on Wednesday.