Raqqa- Syria’s Kurdish-Arab rebels fighting under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Wednesday initiating combing operations to clear Raqqa from ISIS members.
A number of foreign militants captured in the former ISIS stronghold have already been handed to Western countries, said SDF sources.
Despite the US-backed SDF claiming full control over Raqqa, the fate of dozens of foreign ISIS fighters who were known to be located in the area remains unknown.
The British-based Observatory for Human Rights says that no one has spotted foreign fighters in particular, but apprehended French and Belgian militants were turned in to intelligence forces of their respective countries.
As battles continue to drag around Syrian terrain, the latest loss suffered by regime forces was the death of Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine in Deir Ezzor.
The Republican Guard’s Zahreddine, who also commanded regime operations in Deir Ezzor, was killed in a mine explosion in the Hawija-Sakr area inside the city, according to Syrian media.
Zahreddine played a role in the progress made by the Syrian pro-regime army forces in Deir Ezzor city and the surrounding areas.
Zahreddine led army operations against the armed opposition in Homs and Aleppo, before moving to the eastern region to fight ISIS.
On the other hand, the regime launched raids against Deir Ezzor’s eastern oil field, racing SDF units for control over oil and gas fields in eastern Syria.
More so, the US is expected to lead efforts in clearing out and restoring basic public services in Raqqa after its liberation. SDF search teams have at the same time announced combing the city for “sleeper cells” hiding among civilians.
“We will assist and take, essentially, the lead in bringing back the water, electricity and all of that,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing. “But eventually the governance of the country of Syria is something that I think all nations remain very interested in.”
“The United States and our allies have prepared for next steps and will continue to work with partners to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need and support the stabilization efforts in Raqqa and other liberated areas,” Nauert said.
Additionally, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said preparations were underway for a formal declaration of the city’s liberation.
The SDF said Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their troops have taken full control of the city. The US-led coalition cautioned that the clearing operations would continue, saying some 100 militants may still be hiding in the city.