US-backed force says has fully captured Raqqa from IS

SansadTV Bureau
AP Photo: This frame grab from a video provided on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 by Turkey-based Kurdish Mezopotamya agency media outlet that is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows Syrian civilians run on a damaged street as they fleeing from the areas that still controlled by the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria. Scores of civilians including women and children are fleeing the last few remaining neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group in Syria's northern city of Raqqa, ahead of an anticipated final push by U.S.-backed fighters seeking to liberate the city.

AP Photo: This frame grab from a video provided on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 by Turkey-based Kurdish Mezopotamya agency media outlet that is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows Syrian civilians run on a damaged street as they fleeing from the areas that still controlled by the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria. Scores of civilians including women and children are fleeing the last few remaining neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa, ahead of an anticipated final push by U.S.-backed fighters seeking to liberate the city.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said today they had fully captured the Islamic State group’s former Syrian stronghold Raqa, after more than four months of fighting.

“Everything is finished in Raqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqa,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

“The military operations in Raqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines,” he added.

“Soon there will be an official statement announcing the liberation of the city.”

The city’s capture comes after the SDF today seized the last two remaining IS positions in Raqa, the national hospital and the municipal stadium.

Yesterday, the SDF had taken the infamous Al-Naim traffic circle, dubbed the “Roundabout of Hell” by residents under IS rule because the jihadists used it for public beheadings and crucifixions.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, began their operation to drive IS from Raqa last November, spending months encircling the city before breaking into it in June.

Over the course of four months, they captured some 90 per cent of the city, but operations were paused last week to allow local officials to negotiate the evacuation of thousands of trapped civilians.

Under the agreement, several hundred Syrian IS fighters and family members also left remaining jihadist positions, leaving only an estimated 300 foreign fighters in the city.

IS captured Raqa in 2014 and transformed it into the de facto Syrian capital of its self-styled “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.

The city became synonymous with the worst of the group’s abuses, as well as a planning centre for jihadist attacks abroad.