kurdish ypg flagA
Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) flag flutters as people
celebrate the spring festival of Nowruz, in al-Darbasiyah town,
on the Syrian-Turkish border, Syria March 21,
2017.
REUTERS/Rodi
Said

RAQQA, Syria (Reuters) – U.S.-backed militias have
completely taken
Syria’s
 Raqqa from Islamic
State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on
Tuesday.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) raised a militia flag
inside Raqqa stadium on Tuesday, one of the last remaining areas
that were held by Islamic State in its former capital, a Reuters
witness said.

The flag of the Kurdish YPG, the strongest of the militias in the
SDF, was planted in the middle of the stadium, where fighting had
ended, but which had not been fully cleared of landmines, militia
fighters told the witness.

A local field commander said no Islamic State fighters remained
even in their two remaining city strongholds.

Fighting on Monday night and Tuesday has focused
on Raqqa‘s National Hospital and the nearby
city stadium, two central positions in which it was well
entrenched.

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. From the city, the group planned attacks
abroad.

syria iraq isis map raqqa october 2017LiveUAMap.com

Islamic State has lost swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq
this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul, and in
Syria it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates
valley and surrounding desert.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, took the
National Hospital in fierce fighting overnight and early on
Tuesday, said spokesman Mostafa Bali in a statement.

 

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.

Another field commander, who gave his name as Abjal al-Syriani,
said SDF fighters had entered the stadium and found burned
weapons and documents.

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic   Kurdish
fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) run across a
street in Raqqa
Thomson
Reuters

The stadium in Raqqa had become the last major position held by
Islamic State after four months of battle
in Raqqa and the departure of some of its
fighters on Sunday, leaving only foreign jihadists to mount a
last stand.

The SDF has been supported by a U.S.-led international coalition
with air strikes and special forces on the ground since it
started the battle for Raqqa city in early
June.

The final SDF assault began on Sunday after a group of Syrian
jihadists quit the city under a deal with tribal elders, leaving
only a hardcore of up to 300 fighters to defend the last
positions, including the hospital and stadium.

ISIS RaqqaMilitant
Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the
streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30,
2014.
REUTERS/Stringer

Raqqa was the first big city Islamic State captured in early
2014, before its rapid series of victories in Iraq and Syria
brought millions of people under the rule of its self-declared
caliphate, which passed laws and issued passports and money.

It used the city as a planning and operations center for its
warfare in the Middle East and its string of attacks overseas,
and for a time imprisoned Western hostages there before killing
them in slickly produced films distributed online.

The SDF advance since Sunday also brought it control over a
central city roundabout, where Islamic State once displayed the
severed heads of its enemies, and which became one of its last
lines of defense as the battle progressed.

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