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ISIS Militants Cleared from Raqqa… Mystery Surrounds Their Destination | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an air strike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, on Oct 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Beirut- The Syrian Democratic Forces launched on Sunday 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 SDF spokesperson said that 275 Syrian ISIS fighters left Raqqa, leaving behind between 200 and 300 foreign ISIS jihadists.

About 3,000 trapped civilians also left the city.

However, details related to the deal, which the Coalition denied being involved in, were kept unclear, especially concerning the destination of the convoy that left Raqqa Sunday evening with conflicting reports about whether it included foreign-born militants or only Syrian nationals.

After both AFP and Reuters had quoted Omar Alloush- a senior official of the Raqqa Civil Council- as saying that the evacuation would include foreign fighters, the official later told Asharq Al-Awsat that no foreigners had left Raqqa in the convoy.

Also, Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman told Ahsarq Al-Awsat on Sunday: “We did not document any withdrawal of foreign militants from the city. Those fighters are still present in one pocket inside Raqqa.”

He said that the French intelligence was behind the delay of the foreign militants’ evacuation from Raqqa, due to confirmations on the presence of the Paris attacker inside the city.

However, Abdel Rahman said that if those fighters withdrew to the east of Deir Ezzor, there should be clarifications in this regard, especially how the convoy was capable of traveling hundreds of kilometers before reaching its final destination.

Meanwhile, French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly said on Sunday that it was necessary to neutralize a maximum number of ISIS militants in Raqqa, adding that it would be so much better if they were all killed in the fighting.