Activists in Ar Raqqa have posted images online purporting to show a U.S. Predator drone orbiting the skies of the north-east Syrian city, the chosen “capital” of the Islamic State militant group.
The 16-member activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently provided the images to various online publications. Their handheld imagery corresponds with a video uploaded to Youtube on Sept. 6.
In recent months, RIBSS has provided most of the documentation coming out of the conflict-ridden city, as almost no local or foreign journalists are present—due, of course, to Islamic State’s suppression and murder of journalists.
Last year, rebel groups overran government forces in Ar Raqqa. Within several months, Islamists came to dominate the city, with Islamic State eventually coming out on top. Last month, the group took over the entire province when it pushed the remaining government forces out of one last military base.
Islamic State’s territorial gains in Syria and Iraq continue to put considerable pressure on the United States to do more than send advisers to Iraq.
In August, U.S. president Barack Obama authorized air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq. U.S. Central Command has launched 131 air strikes across the country—most around Erbil and the Mosul Dam.
The appearance of Predator in Syrian skies could indicate U.S. planning for possible air strikes in Syria, as well.
American planes and drones are flying around 60 surveillance flights every day over Islamic State territory, according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.