US-backed forces announce fall of ISIS stronghold Raqqa

Operations are ongoing to flush out the remaining ISIS fighters and locate any booby traps

US-backed forces announce fall of ISIS stronghold Raqqa

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) soldiers looking out a window towards an area hit by an air strike, 12-08-2017. Image: Morukc Umnaber/dpa

The Syrian Democratic Forces today announced the end of its military operation against ISIS in the stronghold of Raqqa.

The announcement brings the four-month battle to retake the terror group's capital in Syria to an end.

While the fighting is now over, clearing operations are ongoing to flush out the remaining ISIS fighters and locate IEDs and booby traps.

Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF said they had killed 22 fighters as they captured the city hospital in Raqqa - which was being used by the militants as their headquarters.

Dozens of fighters were making a last stand in the city's stadium and it is unclear whether some are still holed up there.

The US-backed militias raised a flag inside the stadium on Tuesday. Fighters could reportedly be seen chanting slogans and celebrating in the streets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, has said ISIS has now been completely cleared from the city.

Civilian deaths

The intense battle to retake Raqqa took an extreme toll on the civilian population in the city.

At the end of September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that hundreds of civilians had died in air-strikes launched by the US-led coalition.

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein said the approximately 20,000 civilians trapped in the city were being forced to pay an “unacceptable price” in the ongoing battle - adding that the attacking forces may be in breach of international law.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch warned that the attacking forces were failing in their duty to take "all feasible precautions" to protect the population.

Syrian Democratic Forces

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are made up mainly of Kurdish fighters, but also Arab and other militias.

It has been battling to win back the city, long regarded as the 'capital' of the Islamic State terror group in Syria, where it would command military operations and carry out brutal public executions.

The fall of Raqqa is regarded as a potent symbol of the fall in the terror organisation's fortunes in recent months.

ISIS first captured the city in 2014.

The Raqqa battle came after the terror group was driven out of its main Iraqi base of Mosul in July.

Reporting from IRN ...