Syrian troops push into Islamic State bastion province Raqqa

This file photo taken on May 25, 2016 shows men in uniform identified by Syrian Democratic forces as US special operations forces as they ride in the back of a pickup truck in the village of Fatisah in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa. (AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN)

This file photo taken on May 25, 2016 shows men in uniform identified by Syrian Democratic forces as US special operations forces as they ride in the back of a pickup truck in the village of Fatisah in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa. (AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN)

US-backed Kurdish troops close in on Euphrates dam as US starts airstrikes from aircraft carrier Truman in Mediterranean Sea

(SOURCE)   Syrian troops pushed into the Islamic State group’s bastion province Raqqa on Saturday for the first time since 2014, in an advance towards the country’s largest dam, a monitor said.

The Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River, 40 kilometers (25 miles) upstream from Raqqa city, is also the target of a separate offensive launched by US-backed Kurdish-led forces advancing from the north late last month.

“Regime troops backed by Russian airstrikes and Russian-trained militia entered Raqqa province on Saturday morning for the first time since August 2014,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

At the same time, the US Navy’s top admiral said the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has begun launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group from the Mediterranean Sea.

In this Friday, Dec. 25, 2015 photo released by the US Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman navigates the Gulf of Oman. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. M. Tolbert/ US Navy via AP)

In this Friday, Dec. 25, 2015 photo released by the US Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman navigates the Gulf of Oman. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. M. Tolbert/ US Navy via AP)

That opens a new direction of attack against the militants in Iraq and Syria.

Adm. John Richardson said in an Associated Press interview Saturday that this unusual arrangement is a demonstration of the flexibility of naval power. The Navy for years positioned its carriers in the Persian Gulf to conduct airstrikes against targets in the Middle East.

The Truman had been in the Gulf but in recent days moved into the eastern Mediterranean and resumed air operations. The Truman eventually will return to its home port at Norfolk, Virginia, and be replaced in the Gulf by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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