Raqqa declared liberated as ISIS fighters make ‘last stand’
U.S. backed forces declared the Islamic State’s capital Raqqa liberated as ISIS fighters made their “last stand” at a stadium.
Raqqa was the defacto base for ISIS as it rose to prominence in 2014, and its loss is the latest blow to the so-called “caliphate” that has been steadily losing territory in Iraq and Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces, a combination of Kurdish and Arab fighters supported by the U.S.-led coalition, declared Tuesday afternoon that the city was free.
Early statements claimed that remaining fighters loyal to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were gathered in a small patch of land around Raqqa’s stadium, with SDF commander Ager Ozalp telling Reuters that around 100 militants remain.
It was not immediately clear if those fighters were still holed up at their base, though U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said shortly before the SDF announcement that 10% of the city had yet to be taken.
The siege of Raqqa has lasted for four months, and captured the main square used for ISIS beheadings on Monday. It is not immediately clear how long the last pockets of resistance in the city will last.
Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces raise a white flag near the National Hospital complex.
(ERIK DE CASTRO/REUTERS)
An independent monitoring organization, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that negotiations had been underway for the surrender of the remaining fighters, believed to be foreigners who traveled to the war-torn country at ISIS’ call.
Thousands of Syrian Islamist fighters left this weekend with their families.
The loss of the one-time capital comes after ISIS has ceded control of large swaths of its territory, which once stretched through northern Iraq and Syria to the country’s border with Turkey.
ISIS fighters were driven out of Mosul, once Iraq’s second largest city, in June, though the group still controls many areas of eastern Syria and western Iraq.
With News Wire Services