US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa say “major military operations” in the city have ended and that the jihadists have lost control of their self-declared capital. The development marks a decisive victory in the fight against ISIS, though US officials said there were still pockets of resistance in the city.
“Major military operations in Raqqa are finished but they are now clearing the city of sleeper cells — if they exist — and mines,” Talal Salo, spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, told CNN. The SDF is a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters.
“The situation in Raqqa is under control and soon there will be an official statement declaring the liberation of the city.” The defeat of ISIS in Raqqa is a symbol of the terror group's decline — it now controls a small strip of territory along the Euphrates river in northern Syria.
The city became the de facto capital of the terror group's self-proclaimed “caliphate” following a sweep of territorial gains in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Can ISIS ever be eradicated? – Foreign fighters swelled the ranks of ISIS in Raqqa, which it used as a base to launch terror attacks around the world. A sustained effort to retake the city began in early June, in an operation led by the SDF and backed up by coalition air strikes. The SDF announced the final phase of the operation at the weekend.
In the past few days, the SDF said it had cleared ISIS fighters from the National Raqqa Hospital and Paradise Square, the infamous area in the center where ISIS jihadists carried out public beheadings and crucifixions. The terror group's black flag was hauled down from Raqqa's stadium, its last hideout in the city, on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
“The SDF have taken casualties in the past hours and we expect there will still be pockets of ISIS fighters in the coming days,” coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told CNN. In a sign that the SDF operation was nearing a conclusion, coalition air strikes had eased off in the past week.
There was only one US airstrike in Syria Monday, but …