The US military is warning residents of Raqqah – the self-proclaimed capital of Daesh in Syria – to leave the city, indicating an offensive was imminent, Pentagon officials say.
Two Pentagon officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that the US-led coalition had issued warnings after residents of Raqqah posted photos of airdropped leaflets on Twitter, which urged them to flee the flashpoint city.
“The time….has arrived. It’s time to leave Raqqah,” one of the ominous leaflets read.
One Pentagon official, however, said that a ground or air attack could be months away, suggesting that the warnings were part of a psychological offensive.
“It’s part of our mess-with-them campaign,” the official explained to The Daily Beast.
The leaflets come as there have been reports that Daesh had declared a state of emergency in Raqqah, digging trenches and re-positioning combat capabilities and militants in and around the city.
“We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqah, whatever that means,” Colonel Steve Warren, a US spokesman for the so-called anti-Daesh coalition said last week.
Syrian and Russian officials said last month that the Syrian army and allied forces were planning major operations to retake the eastern cities of Dayr al-Zawr, Raqqah, and Aleppo from Takfiri militants.
Daesh’s fears also appear to have spurred by the Kurdish fighters known as the Peoples Protection Units, or YPG, who have been engaged in deadly fighting with the terrorists.
YPG’s recent gains in towns that run along Raqqah’s supply routes have raised the specter of a possible campaign by the Kurdish fighters in Raqqah.
Daesh has controlled Raqqah for more than two years, serving as the group’s headquarters and de-facto capital.
Syria has been gripped by a foreign-sponsored militancy since 2011.
UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura estimates, that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.