An Islamic State suicide attack carried out earlier this week was captured by both a television camera crew and by the terrorist group’s drone in their de facto capital of Raqqa, offering dual perspectives on the bloody, urban combat that has become a hallmark of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The attack, which reportedly occurred Tuesday, was geolocated using the stills from the Islamic State drone to a neighborhood in eastern Raqqa, where U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are fighting to push into the city.
Then on Thursday, the news station Kuridstan24 posted a video of the same attack, showing what appears to be the same white car bomb, or VBIED, speeding toward their cameraman before exploding.
It is unclear how many fighters were wounded or killed in the attack, but suicide bombings of the type seen in the video are a staple of the Islamic State’s tactics and one of the leading cause of casualties in Iraq and Syria. In this case, the attack was carried out by an armored pickup truck loaded with explosives. Not only did it have a driver but also a fighter armed with a machine gun on the roof. As Hugo Kaaman, a researcher of Islamic State vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, points out, the gunner on the roof was likely there to suppress any defenses the truck might encounter.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, said that, after two months of heavy fighting in the city and with U.S.-backed fighters attacking from three directions, the Syrian Democratic Forces hold 45 percent of the city, a figure that has remain unchanged for more than a week.
While the Pentagon insists that its proxy force is making daily progress, the Islamic State has turned Raqqa into a battle of attrition to try to ensure that the U.S.-backed force disproportionately pays for each foot of ground into the city. Unlike Iraqi forces who cleared Mosul with tens of thousands of troops and reserves to help buoy their forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces has significantly smaller numbers and fewer pieces of heavy equipment, such as armored vehicles and tanks.
Raqqa, however, is much smaller than Mosul, and Pentagon officials say they are optimistic that the battle will be over significantly quicker than the nine months it took to clear the Iraqi city. Though U.S.-backed fighters suffered heavy casualties in Raqqa, humanitarian groups say civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. The onslaught of U.S. airstrikes, artillery and Islamic State attacks have killed and displaced thousands of civilians, the United Nations has said, while tens of thousands remain trapped in the city.