U.S.-backed militias said they had defeated Islamic State in its former capital Raqqa on Tuesday, raising their flags over the jihadist group’s last footholds in the city after a four-month battle. The fighting was over but the alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias was clearing the stadium of mines and any remaining militants, said Rojda Felat, commander of the Raqqa campaign for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). A formal declaration of victory in Raqqa will soon be made, once the city has been cleared of mines and any possible Islamic State sleeper cells, said Talal Silo, the SDF spokesman. The only populated areas still controlled by the jihadist group in Syria are the towns and villages downstream of Deir al-Zor along the Euphrates valley. They are areas that for the past three years Islamic State ran from Raqqa.
The battle for the Islamic State group’s de-facto Syria capital, Raqqa, has reached its “final stages”, the U.S.-backed force leading the assault said Wednesday. The Syrian Democratic Forces captured Raqqa’s last grain silos from the militants in a surprise offensive on the city’s northern neighborhoods, mounted five days ago, the group said in a statement. Just 300 to 400 militants remain in Raqqa, according to the Observatory. The SDF control 90 percent of the north Syrian city. In the meantime, the government and its backers, and the SDF and the U.S., are at risk of clashing in the energy-rich eastern Syrian Deir el-Zour province, where both sides are rushing to grab territory from the embattled IS group. The fighting there is largely concentrated around the provincial capital, also called Deir el-Zour, which lies 125 kilometers (78 miles) southeast of Raqqa, on the banks of the Euphrates River.
The U.S. has provided approximately US $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other similar terrorist organizations under the guise of fighting against Daesh. A report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) stated that Washington is using “vaguely worded legal documents which obscure Syria as the weapons’ final destination – a practice experts say threatens global efforts to combat arms trafficking and puts the Eastern European governments who sell the weapons and ammunition at risk of breaching international law”. The U.S. bypasses checks on international weapons trafficking, and omits documentary evidence regarding the final destination of the weapons. Weapons can be diverted to any group, a dangerous practice that puts the global arms control system at risk. The report investigated the Pentagon’s weapons shipment to Syria using procurement records, ship-tracking data, official reports, leaked emails, and interviews with insiders.
The predominately Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have pushed back ISIL from 65 percent of Raqqa city’s neighborhoods, Jeihan Sheikh Ahmad, the official spokesman for the Euphrates Rage Operation Room said on Monday. Ahmad said that the Kurdish forces have seized control over the neighborhoods of old Raqqa and al-Dar’eiyeh that were the most important strongholds of ISIL in the city.In the meantime, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) released a full statement covering the battle for Raqqa where heavy clashes continue day and night. According to the YPG (main military branch of the SDF) press statement, some 65 percent of Raqqa’s provincial capital has been ‘liberated’ while 2,000 hostages were freed from ISIL captivity over the past month. Effectively, Kurdish forces are now in control of 14 of out the city’s 23 neighborhoods, the YPG statement added.