Published: Wed, October 18, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Kurdish-Arab Forces Declare Defeat of ISIS in Raqqa

Kurdish-Arab Forces Declare Defeat of ISIS in Raqqa

"Everything is finished in Raqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqa", the alliance's spokesman Talal Sello said.He said the SDF was combing the city for any remaining jihadists who had not surrendered or been killed, and added that a major mine-clearing operation was already under-way.

US-backed militias will capture Islamic State's last foothold in the jihadists' former Syrian capital of Raqqa within hours, a militia spokesman says.

It is now hemmed in to a tiny bomb-cratered patch of the city around the stadium that is pounded from the air by a US-led coalition and encircled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters. In Syria, it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates Valley and surrounding desert.

It used the city as a planning and operations centre for its warfare in the Middle East and its string of attacks overseas, and for a time imprisoned Western hostages there before killing them in slickly produced films distributed online.

Another Reuters witness said militia fighters celebrated in the streets, chanting slogans from their vehicles.

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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.

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

Sello said an official statement announcing "the liberation of the city" would be made soon.

The victory caps a battle of more than four months for Raqqa, and hammers another nail in the coffin of the jihadist group's experiment in statehood, which has collapsed in the face of offensives in Syria and Iraq.

Fatima Hussein, a 58-year-old woman, sitting on a pavement smoking a cigarette said she had emerged from her house after being trapped for months by the fighting. Islamic State had killed her son for helping civilians leave the city, she said.

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Another field commander, who gave his name as Abjal Al Syriani, said SDF fighters had found burned weapons and documents in the stadium. The operation involved 15,000 SDF fighters supported by a major air campaign by the US-led anti-IS coalition.

Up to 300 militants were thought to be holding out on Sunday, after Syrian jihadists and their families were evacuated along with 3500 civilians under a deal negotiated by the Raqqa Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders.

For three years Raqqa was the de facto capital of Daesh's self-declared caliphate, a centre of operations where it oversaw the management of vast swathes of eastern, central and northern Syria and planned attacks overseas.

The terror group also lost control of Naim Square to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) where it once held public executions.

"These are not desert areas, they are villages along the Euphrates (river) that were IS strongholds", the Britain-based monitoring group said".

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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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