05:10, 27 January 2020
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IS conflict: US sends Marines to support Raqqa assault

The US has sent 400 additional troops to Syria to support an allied local

force aiming to capture the so-called Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. They include Marines, who arrived in the past few days. US special forces are already in Syria. Meanwhile, US-led coalition air strikes killed 20 civilians - including children - near Raqqa, reports say. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to host a meeting of the coalition members on 22 March. Foreign ministers and senior officials from 68 nations and international organisations had been invited to attend a two-day gathering in Washington, the state department said. "Secretary Tillerson has been crystal clear that defeating Isis (IS) is the state department's top priority in the Middle East," acting state department spokesman Mark Toner said. The coalition is expected to launch an assault on Raqqa in the coming weeks. Defence officials told the Washington Post that a Marine artillery unit would have M777 howitzers, which can fire 155mm shells about 32km (20 miles). A coalition spokesman, Col John Dorrian, told Reuters news agency they would help "expedite the defeat" of IS in Raqqa.