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Battle for Raqqa: ITV News on the frontline with liberating forces aiming to recapture the city from IS within days

ITV News has spent several days on the frontline of the battle to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa from so-called Islamic State.

Senior International Correspondent John Irvine, cameraman Sean Swan and Middle East News Editor Lutfi Abu Aun, were with liberating forces who believe victory over what they call the IS 'death cult' is close.

Raqqa was seized by Islamic State militants in 2014, declaring it the capital of their caliphate. At its peak, IS controlled the whole of the city. A US-backed coalition assault to recapture the city began in June, and now IS has been forced back into a small enclave.

Raqqa has cast a long, dark shadow in recent years - a shadow which stretches over places like London, Manchester, Nice, Berlin and Brussels.

Standing in the middle of this wretched city I think of the innocent European victims of the hatred and murderous instructions that emanated from right here.

Looking eastwards, you can see the hills to which American and British hostages were taken to be beheaded by Mohammad Emwazi, aka Jihadi John.

Refugees shelter from the fighting. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

We have joined a unit of the pro-Western YPG, the mainly Kurdish militia which has now captured most of the city with the help of coalition airstrikes and artillery.

The crump of ordnance is incessant and essential. That’s because the YPG fighters are so poorly equipped.

They have no tanks or heavy weapons, so the coalition has had to pave their way.

The devastation in Raqqa is clear to see. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The civilian death toll here is unknown. The coalition says it does all it can to avoid killing innocents - and that when it happens, it’s the fault of Islamic State for using human shields.

The IS fanatics are making their last stand in a hospital and under the concrete terraces of a sports stadium.

These locations have not been bombed because hundreds of civilians are trapped inside.

Kurdish YPG fighters believe the end is now just days away. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The YPG fighters we are with are Arabs. They all share the grief of losing a loved one to IS.

Driven on by a thirst for revenge, they believe the end is just days away.

If so, it seems that Raqqa - the capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate - will become known as the city that declared war on the world, and lost.