Islamic State jihadists forced out of Raqqa

Aaron Brown
October 18, 2017

US-backed forces said Tuesday they had retaken the main hospital in Syria's Raqa from the Daesh (the so-called IS) group and raised a militia flag inside Raqa stadium on Tuesday, one of the last remaining areas that were held by Daesh in its former capital.

The fall of Raqqa city, where Islamic State staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement's collapsing fortunes.

U.S. backed forces have succeeded in eliminating almost all Daesh fighters from the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced earlier today.

Dillon says: "We have not received official reporting to say Raqqa is cleared".

And though the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by Kurdish militias and its multi-ethnic allies, declared victory over IS fighters after a final round of battles, the city itself has been "comprehensively wrecked".

"IS will be mainly boxed into a strip of territory running along the Middle Euphrates River Valley in the province of Deir Ezzor", he told AFP.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an ethnically-mixed militia led by Kurds backed by U.S., announced via the messaging app Telegram that Raqqa was now completely free of ISIS fighters, Efe reports.

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.

The capture of the hospital on Tuesday leaves IS militants cornered in and around the notorious municipal stadium in Raqqa, once the group's de facto capital. Dillon said the SDF hadn't asked for any more air support, meaning the coalition was confident that there were no more ISIS fighters left. Much of the city now lies in ruins, its residents scattered in displacement camps across the country.

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The charity says some 270,000 people who fled the Raqqa fighting are still in critical need of aid.

An SDF field commander who gave his name as Ager Ozalp said three militiamen had been killed on Monday by mines that have become an Islamic State trademark in its urban battles. The experience over the past two days of the Kurds in neighboring Iraq may embolden the Syrian government to challenge the Syrian Kurdish enclave once the Islamic State is vanquished, just as the Iraqi government has moved to dislodge Kurdish forces from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other areas they controlled.

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

He said fighting is still underway with militants who had refused to surrender.

Last week, IS' Syrian jihadists were evacuated from the city with their families under a deal agreed with tribal elders, but more than 300 foreign fighters are believed to have made their last stand in Raqqa's hospital and stadium on Sunday.

By the time the battle was over, Raqqa had lost all strategic significance to the group that had once used the city to showcase its brutality and plot attacks against the West.

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

On Tuesday, a military media unit run by Lebanon's Hizbollah said the Syrian army, which Hizbollah fights with, had pushed into the last Daesh districts of Deir Ezzor city.

Syria's state news agency says government forces have captured several villages in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour from the Islamic State group.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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