Bombings target Raqqa, near symbolic Naim Square
Bombings targeted Raqqa (الرقة) on the night of June 1 before midnight. It comes amid an uptick in ISIS threats that have occurred across Syria and Iraq and coincides with the end of Ramadan.
Initial reports put the bombings near Naim Square (النعيم), the site of ISIS executions between 2014 and the city's liberation in 2017. Sources said that one of the bombs was set off near Rashid park (حديقة الرشيد), just south of the square.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights noted "Suicidal bombings targeted #Al_Raqqah city leaving tens dead and wounded." There is speculation regarding numerous groups and states that may have an interest in undermining the Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led Coalition efforts at stabilization. There were also clashes on June 1 near Tel Rifaat amid tensions in northern Syria. ISIS sleeper cells have been a persistent threat to SDF areas in eastern Syria.
Reports at Kurdistan24 indicated twin bombings targeted the city. Dozens of casualties are reported. The account @NotWoofers which closely tracks incidents like this says five civilians were killed. "The SDF have completely shut the area down and have deployed armored vehicles." A video online showed the aftermath of what was claimed to be a car bomb in a pickup truck. Another video showed similar scenes of dust and debris and people in the aftermath. One account noted "Na'eem square (paradise) #Raqqa used be called the HELL square during #ISIS period, where executions conduted & heads hanged on its spearheads. Since it has been nicely rehabilitated, ppl rushed to spend good time w/their families. Now it's bloody again." Images from the scene were shocking. Names of some victims were given.
Wladimir Van Wilgenburg at Kurdistan24 reported that "at least 10 people were killed on Saturday when separate explosions rocked the city of Raqqa." He confirmed that the attack took place around 10pm near Naim or Paradise Square.
ISIS has an interest in striking at Raqqa, its former capital, and also to strike at the SDF. The SDF recently announced the graduation of new trainees in Tabqa. ISIS leader Baghdadi released a video in April. It has been destroying fields using fires recently. In addition to burning fields, threats of ISIS attacks reportedly led to the ban on motorcycles in part of Tabqa, around 40 km from Raqqa on the Euphrates river.
The US is continuing talks and efforts regarding eastern Syria and many countries are struggling with repatriating their citizens who joined ISIS. Thousands of foreign ISIS members are held by the SDF in eastern Syria. There are also reports that Germany may be discussing playing a role in eastern Syria after talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Key words: Raqqa, ISIS, Naim Square, Terrorism