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Islamic State faces imminent defeat in Raqqa

  • Published at 02:36 pm October 14th, 2017
Islamic State faces imminent defeat in Raqqa
Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria's Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists on Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told reporters. A local official separately said that tribal elders from Raqqa were seeking to broker a deal where remaining Islamic State fighters, including foreigners, would leave the city, taking civilians with them as human shields. The US-led coalition however said it wanted the unconditional surrender of all IS militants in Raqqa. Its spokesman said around 100 jihadist fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been "removed from the city", and it still expected difficult fighting "in the days ahead". The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by coalition air strikes and special forces, have been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa, formerly its Syrian de facto capital and a base where it planned attacks against the West. The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group's self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul. Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council, said the 100 Islamic State fighters who had already surrendered had been convinced to do so during talks with the tribal elders. The council was set up to run Raqqa after it is freed from IS. "Others didn't surrender, so now they're looking for a plan where they (IS) leave and take civilian hostages with them to another place far from the city, and then release the civilians," he told Reuters in an interview in Ain Issa, north of Raqqa. The IS fighters would go to remaining territory held by the group in Syria, he said. Col Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, said its position was that IS fighters must surrender unconditionally. The Raqa Civil Council, the SDF and local leaders had been working on "local solutions", he added. "Though we were able to present our side, those discussions happened between those entities and that's where the decisions were made," he said by phone. "We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa," he said, adding that around 85% of Raqqa had been liberated. Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added. The Syrian army, which is supported by Iran-backed militias and the Russian air force, declared another significant victory over Islamic State on Saturday, saying it had captured the town of al-Mayadin in Deir al-Zor province.
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