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A Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) fighter rests while looking over the Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city, Syria March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

(reuters_tickers)

PARIS (Reuters) - A battle against Islamic State to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa is likely to start in the coming days, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

"France has always said that Raqqa was a major objective," Le Drian told CNews television station. "Today, one can say that Raqqa is encircled, that the battle for Raqqa will start in the coming days."

"It will be a very hard battle, but a battle that is going to be of utmost importance," he added.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Pentagon department had said that the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State had for the first time airdropped local ground forces behind enemy lines near the ISIS-held town of Tabqa in northern Syria, opening up a new front in the campaign to recapture Raqqa.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

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