Doomed but still dangerous: Frontline threats remain as Isis head for bloody end in Raqqa

ITV News has joined US-backed Kurdish forces on course for a symbolic victory over so-called Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Correspondent John Ray travelled with them to the frontline battle at the walls of the old city before meeting the brides and daughters of captured or killed Isis fighters.

As the sun set, the guns started up as the assault on Raqqa's old city illuminated the heart of darkness.

This is a battle being fought by moonlight.

We travelled into the city of Jihadi John and countless barbarities in morning light on a road that stretched back to the terror in London, Manchester and beyond.

It lies in ruins now.

We passed the body of an Isis fighter, his caliphate decomposing with him, with the walls of the ancient medina now fallen to the Kurds.

Pictures from a drone above the urban battlefield, obtained exclusively by ITV News, have shown the devastating power of the West's war planes and missiles as the so-called Islamic State is being wiped off the map.

Drone footage obtained exclusively by ITV News showed the power of the Western aerial assault on Isis. Credit: ITV News

Our route to the frontline involved a sprint across sniper alley and careful steps over rubble that often conceals mines.

It took us close enough to hear Isis radio.

The instructions of Isis fighters were tracked on radio. Credit: ITV News

"Now is the time for Jihad," a commander urged his beleaguered forces.

The Kurds are claiming this as a great victory. They took the old city walls after a month-long, blood-soaked slog through the streets of Raqqa.

Kurdish female fighters, otherwise known as the YPJ, have served a critical role in the fight against Isis. Credit: ITV News/Barnaby Green

But ahead of them remain heavily armed Isis fighters, booby-trapped buildings and suicide bombers. Isis may be doomed but its death throes will be long and dangerous.

The soldiers we met took up arms against Isis from the start and now believe they are moving in for the kill.

"I want a free Raqqa for my family, for everyone in here, for every family in Syria," one told us.

Is Isis finished in Raqqa now, I asked him.

"Yes," he said. "It's finished."

And you will finish it?


Inside the old city perhaps 100,000 civilians are trapped, caught between airstrikes and 4,000 Isis fighters.

Those who can escape run to a new home; a makeshift camp in the desert.

This young boy was among the civilians who fled Raqqa to makeshift desert camps. Credit: ITV News

We have left hell behind, they told us.

But in one corner, separated from the rest, were the brides and children of Isis whose husbands and fathers are either dead or in jail.

Some rushed to condemn the murderous ideology they once embraced.

The brides and daughters of Isis fighters are held at the camps. Credit: ITV News

But one woman, who calls herself Aisha, stood out.

The killing was wrong and Isis is a lie, she said.

But her regrets were reserved chiefly for the fighters defending the city.

"In Raqqa there is a place for those who lose a leg, a hand, eyes ... when I see that I'm really so sad for them," she told me.

Aisha then described a beheading as if it were no more than entertainment.

"They stole money and they saw his neck. I see that by my eyes."

A woman calling herself Aisha told ITV News that British Isis recruiter Sally Jones has vowed to die fighting. Credit: ITV News

You saw them cut his head off, I asked.

"Yes," she said. "It's ok for me," she added. "Because I was used to (seeing) them in those scary movies."

Aisha then let slip the name of an English friend, a woman "from London" with "green eyes and blonde" hair.

We believe she was talking about the Isis recruiter Sally Jones, high on Britain's wanted list.

Aisha said she has fled to the Iraqi border but still will die with Isis.

"She (told) me she will stay here until she die, she don't want to go anywhere," she said.

The Kurds have female fighters too, shoulder to shoulder with the men, backed by America and doing the West's work.

Women are among the Kurdish forces that are fighting with reduced protection. Credit: ITV News

We found them fighting without helmets or body armour and with homemade bombs tied with string.

Still, there was no shortage of courage and in searing heat there remained many cool heads.

Here Isis might measure its future in weeks or months but it's days are numbered.