Backed militias say they take major Raqqa position from ISIS
Backed militias say they take major Raqqa position from ISIS
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18 October, 2017, 00:57
US -backed forces say they took "full control" of the city of Raqqa, long the extremist group Islamic State's main stronghold in Syria, following heavy fighting against a few dozen militants remaining in the city.
The fighting was over but the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, was clearing the stadium of mines and any remaining militants, according to Rojda Felat, commander of the Raqqa campaign for the SDF.
There had been fears that the force, backed by the US-led coalition battling IS in Syria and Iraq, could get bogged down in a protracted battle for the last 10 percent of the city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that IS was now completely cleared from Raqqa, which the SDF had been besieging for almost four months.
"Soon we will have an official statement about the liberation of Raqqa", he said.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a four-month assault.
However, the coalition would only say that the battle was "near its end", with spokesman Col Ryan Dillon estimating that about 100 militants were left in Raqqa.
He added the SDF was combing the city for any remaining jihadists who had not surrendered or been killed.
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The stadium and hospital became the last major positions held by Islamic State after the departure of some of its fighters on Sunday, leaving only foreign jihadis to mount a last stand.
Islamic State (IS) made Raqqa the headquarters of its self-styled "caliphate" in early 2014, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and using beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule.
It used the city as a planning and operations centre for its warfare in West Asia and its string of attacks overseas, and for a time imprisoned Western hostages there before killing them in slickly produced films distributed online.
For Umm Abdullah, a Raqqa native who fled the city three years ago, news of its capture was overwhelming.
The offensive has pushed Daesh from most of northern Syria, while a rival offensive by the Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran and Shiite militias, has driven the extremists from the central desert.
The only populated areas the extremist group still controls in Syria are the towns and villages downstream of Deir Ezzor city along the Euphrates Valley.
"The Daesh group is collapsing under pressure from the regime in Deir Ezzor province", it said.
But yesterday they captured the hospital and stadium in quick succession, effectively ending IS's more than three-year presence in the city.
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