US-Backed Force Declares Raqqa Free of ISIS - NBC 6 South Florida
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US-Backed Force Declares Raqqa Free of ISIS

"Our victory is one against terrorism, and the liberation of Raqqa marks the latest chapter in the fight against terrorists in Syria"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Shells of buildings, concrete slabs littering dust-choked streets and destroyed cars are all that is left of whole neighborhoods in Raqqa, Syria, after weeks of fighting and bombings between Islamic State militants and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S. (Published Friday, Oct. 20, 2017)

    A U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital" of Raqqa on Friday, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence.

    At a press conference held inside the city Friday, the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces formally handed over administration of the devastated northern city to a council made up of local officials and tribal leaders.

    In a highly symbolic move, the press conference was held inside the city's sports stadium which Islamic State militants had turned into an arms depot and a huge prison where they incarcerated and tortured their opponents.

    "Our victory is one against terrorism, and the liberation of Raqqa marks the latest chapter in the fight against terrorists in Syria," said Talal Sillo, a spokesman and senior SDF commander.

    Raqqa Liberated From ISIS After Years of Conflict

    [NATL] Raqqa Liberated From ISIS After Years of Conflict

    After nearly four years since Islamic State militants took over the northern Syrian city of Raqqa in January 2014, Kurdish-led Syrian forces declared victory in the rubble strewn city, declaring Raqqa free of extremist presence. 

    (Published Friday, Oct. 20, 2017)

    Standing before a backdrop of shattered buildings, Sillo urged the international community and aid organizations to assist with the city's reconstruction.

    Associated Press drone footage from Raqqa showed the extent of devastation caused by weeks of fighting between Kurdish-led forces and the Islamic State group and thousands of bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition.

    Footage from Thursday shows the bombed-out shells of buildings and heaps of concrete slabs lay piled on streets littered with destroyed cars. Entire neighborhoods are seen turned to rubble, with little sign of civilian life.

    The video showed entire blocks in the city as uninhabitable with knocked-out walls and blown-out windows and doors, while some buildings had several stories turned to piles of debris. The stadium that was used as an arms depot and prison by the extremists appears to have suffered less damage compared with surrounding buildings.

    "We call upon all countries and peace-loving forces and all humanitarian organizations to participate in rebuilding the city and villages around it and help in removing the scars of war that were inflicted by the (ISIS) group," Sillo said.

    Sillo said 655 local and international fighters lost their lives during the four-month battle for Raqqa.

    Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Base

    [NATL] Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Stronghold

    Islamic State fighters surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic forces after the last remaining strongholds were freed from the extremist group's grasp Tuesday, restoring the city of Raqqa to the SDF.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017)

    Long before the ground offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces began in Raqqa in early June, warplanes pounded the city for months.

    The U.S.-backed Kurdish-led SDF announced Tuesday they have driven ISIS militants out of the city after weeks of fighting.

    The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat for ISIS, which has seen its territories steadily shrink since last year. ISIS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.