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US-backed Forces Say IS Ousted From Syria’s Raqqa

  • VOA News

The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Syria and Iraq says the city of Raqqa is 95 percent under control, a day after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared victory there after months of fighting.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said clearance operations were continuing Wednesday in the last blocks of the city.

A spokesman for the SDF, which is made up of Kurdish and Arab militias, said Tuesday the fighting in Raqqa was over and that SDF forces were looking through the city for Islamic State sleeper cells and mines. A formal declaration of victory is expected when that process is complete.

Raqqa was the de facto capital for Islamic State as it set up a self-declared caliphate spanning across large areas it captured in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

The offensive to push the militants out of the city began in June backed by coalition airstrikes.

Islamic State still controls areas around the eastern province of Deir el-Zour and further south in the Euphrates river valley.

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) evacuate a civilian in Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 17, 2017.
Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) evacuate a civilian in Raqqa, Syria, Oct. 17, 2017.

Humanitarian crisis

Although the SDF has seized control of Raqqa from Islamic State, the humanitarian crisis in the area continues to worsen, according to the child advocacy group Save the Children.

"The humanitarian crisis is greater than ever," group director Sonia Khush said in a statement.

The group said some 270,000 people who have fled Raqqa are still in dire need of aid at camps that are "bursting at the seams." The charity said most displaced people are likely to remain for months or even years in the camps, where conditions are "miserable and families do not have enough food, water or medicine."

In an interview with VOA's Kurdish Service, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali called on global relief groups to provide assistance to the displaced people of Raqqa.

“The situation of the displaced people from the city of Raqqa is very difficult and tragic and everyone should be aware of this situation, and we do not have the necessary capabilities because we are fighting and at the same time we live in a war zone area. The International organizations must provide assistance and consideration to the situation of the refugees in the city of Raqqa and the people,” Bali said.

The organization added that thousands of civilians were still being displaced in Deir el-Zour, where fighting is ongoing.

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