US-backed forces announce full capture of Raqqa from IS

US-backed forces announce full capture of Raqqa from IS
2 min read
17 October, 2017
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Tuesday they had fully captured the Islamic State group's former Syrian stronghold Raqqa, after more than four months of fighting.
Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF said they had retaken the main hospital from IS [AFP]
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] said on Tuesday they had fully captured the Islamic State group's former Syrian stronghold Raqqa, after more than four months of fighting.

"Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa," SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

The announcement came after SDF fighters captured the city stadium - IS group's last position in their one-time Syrian stronghold Raqqa.

"The Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the international coalition managed to capture the municipal stadium after storming and clearing most of the area," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that "most of the jihadists surrendered".

Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF said they had retaken the main hospital in Syria's Raqqa from IS militants.

"The national hospital was liberated and... 22 foreign mercenaries were killed," the SDF said. "Clashes continue with great intensity near the municipal stadium." 

The jihadists also suffered setbacks on Tuesday in the eastern Syrian region of Deir az-Zour, where Russian-backed regime forces retook swathes of territory, further reducing a "caliphate" that three years ago was roughly the size of Britain. 

In Raqqa, only about 300 IS fighters, mostly foreigners, were believed to remain in the last neighbourhoods still out of the control of the SDF, a Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US-led coalition battling IS in Syria and Iraq.

Raqqa, Syria [click to enlarge]

Tuesday's advances against IS followed Monday's seizure by the SDF of an infamous roundabout used by the jihadists for public beheadings and crucifixions.

The Al-Naim traffic circle had been dubbed the "Roundabout of Hell" by residents under IS's more than three years of rule over the city.

As the sun was setting over Raqqa's west on Monday, a group of fighters gathered for the dabkeh - the jumpy line dance traditional in the Middle East - to celebrate their native city's near-recapture. 

Three months after Iraqi forces retook Iraq's Mosul, the largest city the jihadist group controlled, the loss of Raqqa will be another nail in the coffin of IS's brutal experiment in statehood.

Agencies contributed to this report.