Islamic State defeated in its Syrian capital Raqqa

18 October, 2017, 00:22 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Sally Jones British IS recruiter via Sky

The SDF has been supported by a US-led worldwide coalition with air strikes and special forces on the ground since it started the battle for Raqqa city in early June.

The remarks come as US -backed Syrian forces and their allies on the ground are going through the city's newly liberated areas, searching for land mines and sleeper cells.

Nuri Mahmoud, spokesman for the People's Protection Units (YPG) - the SDF's Kurdish section - said that his forces were making sure Raqqa had been cleared of IS fighters, particularly in the vicinity of the national hospital.

Rojda Felat, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander, waves her group's flag at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqa.

The only populated areas still controlled by the group in Syria are the towns and villages downstream of Deir al-Zor, along the Euphrates valley.

However, the SDF and Syrian government forces - which are backed by Russian air strikes and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement - have launched separate offensives in the province with the aim of taking control of a key crossing on the border with Iraq.

Kurdish and Arab fighters took to the streets to celebrate the end of the battle they have fought for four months, climbing onto vehicles and parading around the deserted, destroyed city, according to photographs posted on social media.

The loss of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour would hand yet another major blow to IS, which has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. Before the war, 300,000 people lived in Raqqa, but less than one percent have remained, and more than 900 civilians have been killed.

Sonia Khush, Save the Children's director for Syria, described conditions in the camps where displaced from Raqqa are staying as "miserable and families do not have enough food, water or medicine".

On Tuesday the worldwide charity Save the Children said numerous 270,000 people who fled the fighting would likely be stuck in aid camps for months or years. "The children", she said, "have suffered for years under ISIS and must not be forgotten once the fighting subsides".

Dozens of militants who refused to surrender had made their last stand in the city's stadium, which had become notorious as a prison and dungeons for the group.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured Syria's northern city of Raqqa, after fully defeating the Islamic State (IS) group on Tuesday, the SDF spokesman told Xinhua.

The facility was one of the militants' last holdouts in Raqqa and had doubled as a hospital and an IS command center.

The SDF broke into Raqqa in June, after months of fighting to surround the city, and yesterday flushed the last few hundred IS fighters from their remaining positions in the main hospital and the municipal stadium.

"During these clashes, the National Hospital was liberated and cleared from the Daesh mercenaries, and 22 of these foreign mercenaries were killed there", said Bali, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. He says fighting is still underway with militants who had refused to surrender.

The city of Raqqa fell to the Islamic State group in 2014 and became the de facto capital of their self-styled caliphate.

If Mosul gained notoriety as pulpit from which the Islamic State declared its religiously inspired caliphate, Raqqa became the stage from which it showcased its form of rule.



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