April 15, 2013
From our correspondent in A-Raqqa City, who has asked to remain anonymous out of security concerns.
Q: Tell us about the FSA and the Islamist battalions that are giving sharia courses to civilians. Are people forced to take these courses? Is the city under Islamic rule?
A: Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar A-Sham are the battalions giving classes at mosques. These are not compulsory; anyone can go and attend. The purpose is to [help people] understand Islamic sharia. The city is not under any Islamic rule. The A-Raqqa Provincial Council, under the auspices of the FSA, runs the city’s affairs.
Q: What is happening with Division 17? Are the rebels advancing? Did the regime succeed in sending food and other supplies?
A: The rebels are [still] besieging Division 17. They have liberated 85% of it. They have also advanced at the western gate, the eastern gate and the [tank] warehouse.
The rebels have advanced so much that nothing is left of the division but the leadership and the medic battalion. Food and ammunition supplies are dropped by parachutes from choppers in the command center. Most of these supplies don’t arrive because the rebels fire on the choppers.
Q: Can we consider A-Raqqa City under FSA control, despite the airstrikes against it?
A: The city is entirely liberated, but the warplanes heavily bomb it.
Q: What is the security level in a-Raqqa?
A: A total of 80% of the city has been secured. The dangerous zone is 20% of it. There are medical and living challenges due to the severe shortages of medicines, food, flour and other basics. The government is no longer paying public sector salaries. The real danger came from the [regime’s] security branches, the popular committees and what’s called the National Army [a citizen army of regime supporters]. Now, they’re all gone.