Syrian Democratic Forces clearing Raqqa war remnants after ousting Islamic State
The US-led coalition cautioned that about 100 militants may still be hiding in the city.
US-backed forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria are removing land mines and clearing main roads in Raqqa after their commanders declared the city was under their control, a spokesman said.
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said preparations are also under way for a formal declaration of the liberation of Raqqa.
SDF announced on Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa had ended and that troops had taken full control of the city, once the heart of IS’s self-styled caliphate.
The US-led coalition cautioned that the clearing operations were not finished and that it estimated about 100 militants may still be hiding in the city.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the US coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, tweeted that 95% of the city is under full control.
The coalition stressed that the SDF had been successful in keeping captured territories from IS because of its thorough clearing procedures that prevent typical IS counterattacks.
Brett McGurk, the leading US envoy for the coalition battling IS, said he was in northern Syria to prepare for the defeat of the militants. He said the US will help in clearing explosives as well as restoring services in the city.
Mr McGurk posted a photograph of surrendering IS militants, saying: “Once purported as fierce, now pathetic and a lost cause.”
The fall of Raqqa deals a major defeat to the extremist group that has seen its territory steadily shrink since summer. Militants took over Raqqa, on the Euphrates River, in 2014 and transformed it into the epicentre of their brutal rule.
But fighting against IS militants is not over. The group still holds territories to the south of Raqqa, along the border with Iraq in the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour, and to the west in central Homs province.
In separate offensives, the SDF and the Russian-backed Syrian government are battling IS in Deir el-Zour. On Wednesday, fierce clashes were reported between SDF fighters and IS militants in the group’s last strip of land in Hassakeh province, east of Raqqa.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported intense clashes between forces allied with the Syrian government and IS militants in an area between Homs and Deir el-Zour.
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