US-allied militias in northern Syria announced on Tuesday the formation of a civilian council to govern Raqqa after their planned capture of the city from Daish as air strikes, thought to be by planes from a US-led military coalition, killed at least 23 people.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which include a large contingent from the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, has advanced towards Raqqa with the help of air strikes and special forces from the US-led coalition.
The SDF — made up of both Kurds and Arabs waging a military campaign against Daish — said local officials had been setting up the council for six months.
A preparatory committee met “with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it”, the SDF said in a statement.
Spokesman Talal Selo said the SDF would “provide all the support” and had already turned over some towns around Raqqa city to the council after driving out Daish rebels.
The extent of Kurdish control in Raqqa’s future is sensitive both for residents and for Ankara, which has fought a three-decade Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey and fears growing YPG ascendancy just over the border in northern Syria.
The United States says a final decision has yet to be made on how and when Raqqa will be captured. But the SDF is pressing its assault near the city to isolate and ultimately take Raqqa while plans for civilian rule take shape.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes, thought to be by planes from a US-led military coalition, killed at least 23 people in two parts of the eastern Syrian province of Deir Al Zor on Monday.
There was no immediate comment from the coalition which has said it tries to avoid civilian deaths in its bombing campaigns against Islamic State militants in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
Jets “believed to belong to the international coalition” struck the town of Al Bukamal in the south of the province near the Iraqi border, killing three militants and 13 civilians including children, the Observatory said on Tuesday.
The Britain-based war monitoring group said air strikes also killed seven civilians in the town of al-Husainiyah further north along the Euphrates river.