Syria's Raqqa fully liberated from Islamic State by Kurdish-led SDF

Ebony Scott
October 18, 2017

The SDF took the National Hospital after fierce fighting overnight and early on Tuesday, said spokesman Mostafa Bali.

Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, he added.

The US-led coalition backing the operation made no statement on the city's capture, but announced that IS had lost 87 percent of the territory it seized in 2014.

Raqqa's stadium also served as an arms depot and one of the Islamic State militants' largest jails in their self-styled caliphate.

The city also became home to thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Rojda Felat, the SDF's commander for its Raqqa operation, flashed a wide grin as she waved a huge yellow flag emblazoned with the militia's name, her rifle hanging from her shoulder. It says it is not aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or the rebels seeking to overthrow him.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by a US-led worldwide alliance, has been fighting Islamic State inside Raqqa since June. The militias said that they had fully captured Raqqa, according to AFP. They slowly encircled the city before breaking through IS defences on the outskirts in June.

Fighters hauled down the black flag of Islamic State, the last still flying over the city, from the National Hospital near the stadium.

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Another Reuters witness said militia fighters celebrated in the streets, chanting slogans from their vehicles. "22 foreign mercenaries were killed", the SDF said.

The final SDF assault began on Sunday after a group of Syrian jihadis quit the city under a deal with tribal elders, leaving only a hardcore of up to 300 fighters to defend the last positions.

"Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa", the alliance's spokesman Talal Sello said.

"God willing, joy will return to the whole city", fighter Sevger Himo said, his eyes gleaming.

There has been a "staggering loss of civilian life" in Raqqa, according to United Nations war crimes investigators.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that regime forces had brought the entire area stretching between Deir Ezzor and Mayadeen under their control following a major military offensive. Hundreds more were missing and might be buried under destroyed buildings, it said. Daesh had killed her son for helping civilians leave the city, she said.

The more than four-month-long battle for Raqa, which US-backed forces declared over on Tuesday, has left at least 3,250 people dead, more than a third of them civilians, a monitor said.

Other reports by GizPress

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