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Syrian Democratic Forces retake Raqqa from Isis

Loss of "caliphate" capital blow to jihadists

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
US-backed forces in Syria have recaptured Raqqa from the Islamic State, dealing a massive blow to the militants who had anchored their caliphate in the city.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance led by Kurdish forces, told The Times that “military activities were now complete” in the jihadists’ de facto capital and a “clear-up” operation had begun.

A hardcore group of a few dozen mostly foreign fighters were now holed up in the city’s municipal stadium making a final stand.

An SDF spokesman told The Times that at least 22 foreign fighters had been killed in today’s advance. “The military activities are now complete in Raqqa. We have started an operation to comb the area of any sleeper cells,” said Talal Selo, an SDF spokesman. “The situation is under control, an official statement will follow.”

Earlier this morning, Kurdish forces captured the city’s hospital, one of the last Isis holdouts. The remaining fighters are in the stadium, which gained notoriety as one of Isis’s largest jails, and also as a weapons depot.

The loss of Raqqa is a huge symbolic blow to the group that has suffered a string of defeats across Syria, Iraq and Libya. Isis was driven from its largest Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, in July. Raqqa had been its “ capital” since it proclaimed its caliphate in 2014. The city was also used by the group to plan its international attacks.

SDF forces launched their operation in November and broke into the city centre in June.

The SDF said the next target would be Deir Ezzor, a neighbouring province where Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian airpower, were slowly advancing. Over the weekend Syrian government troops said they had successfully penetrated Mayadeen, which lies southeast of Deir Ezzor city.

Read full story: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/syrian-democratic-forces-retake-raqqa-from-isis-j0qwrr5d7

Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/GETTY

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