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Islamic State declares state of emergency in Raqqa, U.S. official says

By Marilyn Malara
U.S. Col. Steve Warren reported that the Islamic State has issued a state of emergency in its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. Photo by Oleg Zabielin/Shutterstock
U.S. Col. Steve Warren reported that the Islamic State has issued a state of emergency in its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. Photo by Oleg Zabielin/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- The de-facto capital of the Islamic State is under a state of emergency, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against the group confirmed.

During a press briefing at the Pentagon Friday, Col. Steve Warren said the Syrian city of Raqqa has been scrambling its defenses as if preparing for an expected attack. The reason for the sudden declaration is unclear, Warren said.

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"We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqah, whatever that means," Warren said in response to one reporter's question. "We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should."

The terrorist group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, has begun hiding military vehicles, sidewalks and supplies from potential airstrikes, with a number of its inhabitants moving swiftly to either find cover or leave the city, officials said.

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"We've had reports of ISIL repositioning both their combat capabilities, I guess what they think may be coming next. And we've seen reports of them repositioning personnel to various other -- either within the city or even out of the city," Warren added.

During the briefing, Warren also discussed coalition operations focused on cutting IS's financial support. Two operations -- Operation Point Blank, which focuses on destroying physical "cash piles," and Tidal Wave II, which will focus on cutting oil revenue -- have been ongoing, he said.

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"These operations have had an impact. We know that ISIL's total income has been reduced substantially, and we know that their income from oil specifically has we believe been reduced by about 50 percent."

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Warren also touched on the militant group's other means of income -- extorting its residents.

"Their primary source of income is what they refer to now as taxation. In reality, we know that it's extortion. But even their ability to extort money from their own people continues to be reduced as our partner forces liberate more and more territory."

Earlier this year, a report from Syria said IS was facing an economic downturn as the group began cutting salaries and demanding residents pay utility bills in black market Dollars. The extremist group was also releasing detainees for $500 each.

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