Kurdish-Arab Forces Declare Defeat of ISIS in Raqqa

Sally Jones British IS recruiter via Sky

The flag of the Kurdish YPG, the strongest of the militias in the Syrian Democratic Forces (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.

"Most of Raqqa people, including us, were looking forward to the day that ISIS would be defeated, but not in this scenario, having a new leadership that committed many human rights violations", he said.

At least 1,000 civilians are said to have died, according to estimates by monitoring groups, majority in the relentless airstrikes.

Kurdish and Arab fighters took to the streets to celebrate the end of the battle they have fought for four months, climbing onto vehicles and parading around the deserted, destroyed city, according to photographs posted on social media.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by a US-led worldwide alliance, has been fighting Islamic State inside Raqqa since June.

Fighters hauled down the black flag of Islamic State, the last still flying over the city, from the National Hospital near the stadium.

An official declaration confirming the city has been recaptured is expected soon. "The children", she said, "have suffered for years under ISIS and must not be forgotten once the fighting subsides". Much of the city now lies in ruins, its residents scattered in displacement camps across the country.

In a sign that the SDF operation was nearing a conclusion, coalition air strikes had eased off in the past week.

It warned that some 270,000 people who had fled the fighting in Raqqa still needed help, and that refugee caps were "bursting at the seams".

"Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa", the alliance's spokesman Talal Sello said.

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"During these clashes, the National Hospital was liberated and cleared from the Daesh mercenaries, and 22 of these foreign mercenaries were killed there", said Bali, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

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

The SDF took the National Hospital after fierce fighting overnight and early on Tuesday, said spokesman Mostafa Bali.

The stadium and hospital became the last major positions held by Islamic State after the departure of some of its fighters on Sunday, leaving only foreign jihadis to mount a last stand.

The city became the de facto capital of the terror group's self-proclaimed "caliphate" following a sweep of territorial gains in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

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 city.

Raqqa had become a byword for atrocities carried out by the jihadists and it was from the city that IS organised devastating attacks it has claimed overseas like the Paris massacres in 2015 or August's attacks in Barcelona.

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by United States special forces, check the area near Raqqa's stadium. "The Islamic State group is collapsing under pressure from the regime in Deir Ezzor province", it said.

The only populated areas the extremist group still controls in Syria are the towns and villages downstream of Deir Ezzor city along the Euphrates Valley.

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