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U.S.-Backed Forces Take 'Full Control' Of Raqqa From Islamic State

October 17, 2017

U.S.-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 military operations in Raqqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines," a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Talal Sello, said on October 17.

"Soon there will be an official statement announcing the liberation of the city," he said, after the Kurdish-led SDF coalition seized the last pockets of IS resistance in the northern Syrian city, including its main hospital and stadium.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that IS was now completely cleared from Raqqa, which the SDF had been besieging for nearly four months.

However, the U.S. military said that it could only confirm that almost 90 percent of Raqqa had been retaken from IS.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said pockets of Islamic State militants remain in Raqqa.

"Our partners have removed ISIS from 87 percent of territory they once held and liberated over 6.5 million people," Dillon said on social media, using another acronym for IS.

The SDF said on October 15 that it launched its "final" assault to uproot IS fighters from the city after allowing some of the militants and their families to leave.

The observatory said that around 3,250 people have died during the four-month battle -- almost one-third of them civilians.

The loss of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, deals another blow to IS, which seized large parts of northern Syria and Iraq in 2014 but has been losing ground in both countries over the last two years.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

Source: full-control-sdf/28799812.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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