January 7, 2019 / 4:39 PM / 5 months ago

Islamic State says suicide bomber hits Kurdish-led recruitment centre in Syria's Raqqa

AMMAN (Reuters) - Islamic State said one of its suicide bombers killed several people when he blew himself up on Monday in a public building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is under the control of a U.S. backed, Kurdish-led militia.

The ultra hardline jihadist group claimed responsibility for the reported attack in a statement issued by the affiliated Amaq news agency. The statement said the attack targeted a recruitment centre in Raqqa and that 17 people were killed or wounded. Amaq provided no further details.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which seized the city in Syria’s northeast from Islamic State (IS) with the crucial help of U.S.-led air strikes in 2017 after months of devastating fighting.

Two Raqqa residents reached by Reuters said they heard an explosion in a central district of the city where the SDF military has offices. Militiamen had cordoned off the area and surrounding streets after the blast, the residents said.

Raqqa, which IS declared the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, was taken by the SDF six years into Syria’s civil war after a protracted battle that killed thousands of civilians and wrecked much of the city.

Rebuilding and restoring Raqqa, which was once home to more than 200,000 people, is proving to be a monumental task.

Since losing almost all the large swathes of territory it took in lightning offensives in Syria and Iraq in 2014-15, IS has returned to deadly hit-and-run attacks and ambushes.

Some people in Raqqa resent effective Kurdish control over the mainly Arab city, with many objecting to compulsory enlistment to its forces and heavy taxes on civilians.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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