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ISIS Loses Its Syria ‘Capital’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian Democratic Forces fighters ride atop military vehicles as they celebrate victory in Raqqa.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Beirut, Raqqa- ISIS lost on Monday its de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they completely control the city, following four months of fierce battles that ended with the withdrawal of some of the terrorists’ militants in an unclear deal that failed to detail the destination of those fighters.

“Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” SDF spokesperson Talal Silo told AFP on Tuesday.

He added that “the military operations in Raqqa have finished, but clearing operations are now underway to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines.”

Silo said an official statement declaring victory in the city would be made soon.

But, despite assertions from the SDF forces that the military operation has ended in Raqqa, the US military said around 100 ISIS fighters were still left in the city.

The Coalition’s spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said the battle was “near its end,” confirming that 90% of the city had been cleared.

However, he failed to specify the fate of foreign militants.

On Sunday, the SDF launched their last attack on Raqqa after a convoy of ISIS armed militants left the city following a deal negotiated by local officials and tribesmen.

An estimated 275 Syrian ISIS fighters were evacuated from Raqqa to an undisclosed location, leaving behind foreign ISIS jihadists.

The US-led Coalition had rejected that foreign combatants leave the city with the Syrians as part of the deal.

Abu Mohammad al-Raqqawi, an activist in the Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “since the first day of the deal’s implementation, foreign fighters were leaving Raqqa in batches as part of the convoys that included Syrians.”

He said that the majority of those fighters went to Deir Ezzor, adding that some of the foreign jihadists were carrying fake Syrian identity cards.

Raqqawi said that between 130 and 150 out of the 1,300 foreign fighters who were inside the city have already surrendered.

He added that many of them were able of fleeing the city after hiding among civilians.