- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Raqqa, the eastern Syrian city Islamic State had declared the capital of its so-called caliphate three years ago, has fallen to U.S.-backed forces after a five-month campaign to liberate the occupied city.

Leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, the loose constellation of Arab and Kurdish paramilitaries battling the Islamic State in Syria, said Tuesday that it had taken control of the city’s government center, municipal stadium and Paradise Square, where the terror group would regularly conduct public executions.

American and allied commanders with the U.S. coalition combating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared an end to major combat operations in the city, which was one of the first major metropolitan areas to be taken by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, three years ago.

“Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told Agence France-Presse Tuesday.

Militiamen, backed by American air power, continue to clear pockets of Islamic State resistance in the city.

A majority of Syrian fighters loyal to the terror group fled the advancing SDF assault earlier this week, with the remaining cadre of local jihadis escaping the onslaught Monday night, according to local reports. A handful of foreign fighters remain scattered throughout Raqqa, representing a shadow of what was once the crown jewel in Islamic State’s caliphate in the Middle East.

“The SDF have taken casualties in the past hours and we expect there will still be pockets of ISIS fighters in the coming days,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the top U.S spokesman for the coalition, told CNN Tuesday.

Washington’s backing of the SDF, including Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, have incensed regional allies, most notably longtime American ally and NATO member Turkey. The YPG are the armed faction of the Kurdish Worker’s Party, or PKK. The Kurdish separatist group, which is responsible for numerous bombings and attacks inside Turkey, has been labeled by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

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