Damascus, Oct 17 : A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters said on Tuesday it has taken full control of the Islamic State terror organisation’s one-time “capital” of Raqqa.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a five-month assault. Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, the BBC reported.
“The city of Raqqa has been liberated and the military operations have ended, but we are mopping up the city in search of sleeper cells if (they) existed,” he said.
The victory marks the first major defeat to IS in Syria as Raqqa is the de facto capital of the terror-designated group.
An official statement declaring victory in the city and the end of three years of IS rule was expected to be made soon.
Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa — the municipal stadium and the National Hospital.
Dozens of foreign militants were believed to have made their last stand in the stadium while 22 were reportedly killed in the final attack on the hospital.
Up to 300 militants were thought to be holding out on Sunday after Syrian jihadists and their families were evacuated under a deal negotiated by tribal elders.
IS seized Raqqa in early 2014, months after it became the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to the rebels in the civil war, and made it the headquarters of its self-styled “caliphate”.
Raqqa was transformed by the group, which implemented an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and used beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule.