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Syrian Democratic Forces assert control over Raqqa on Coalition anniversary

The Syrian Democratic Forces asserted control over Raqqa on Tuesday, October 17, ending three years of Islamic State rule on the third anniversary of the formation of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Stopping short of declaring the city liberated, the spokesperson for Operation Euphrates Wrath, Cihan Shekh Ahmed said in a statement that direct military operations were completed with the capture of the remaining ISIS-held areas, which included the national hospital and the stadium.

Ahmed said that the SDF were still searching recently captured neighbourhoods for any remaining ISIS hideouts, and were continuing to clear mines and IEDs, and open streets. She said the SDF would declare over the four-month operation to capture the city at a later stage.

Fighting and Coalition airstrikes in the city have been much reduced since last week, due to a deal brokered by Raqqa Arab tribal elders to evacuate civilians from the city and the surrender of many Syrian ISIS fighters.

Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon said in a Tuesday press briefing that “Raqqa is more than 90 percent cleared,” and echoed Ahmed’s comments, saying “clearance operations continue, and we expect our Syrian Democratic Force partners to hit pockets of resistance as the final parts of the city is cleared.”

Dillon said that around 350 ISIS fighters surrendered in the last week, including several confirmed foreign fighters who were taken into SDF custody, but he warned that “perhaps about 100 ISIS fighters” could remain in Raqqa.

He said around 3,000 civilians were rescued in the last week.

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