The U.S.-led coalition operating in Iraq and Syria said Tuesday pockets of Islamic State militants remain in Raqqa despite claims by the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that the city has been fully liberated.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman, was reluctant to declare victory, saying Raqqa is "on the verge" of liberation with more than 90 percent of the Syrian city now under SDF control.
Dillon estimated some 100 ISIS fighters remain in Raqqa, once the de facto capital of the terrorist group's self-proclaimed caliphate.
"We are aware of the reports that ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa, however 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 told Pentagon reporters in a video briefing from Baghdad.
SDF officials announced earlier in the day it had gained full control of Raqqa after four months of fighting in the city. The SDF is an American-backed coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters in Syria.
Talal Salo, an SDF spokesman, said Tuesday "the situation in Raqqa is under control," and declared the military operation over.
But Dillon said U.S.-led coalition forces have not yet received an official confirmation that Raqqa was cleared.
He warned of improvised explosive devices and booby-traps laid by militants throughout the city that have killed several civilians returning home over the past month. Among those killed was the commander of the internal security forces affiliated with the SDF, who triggered an IED while walking through Raqqa on Monday.
Raqqa was the first major city ISIS captured at its height of power in 2014, serving as a critical recruitment hub and operations center to plan attacks abroad. Dillon said the inevitable fall of Raqqa to SDF troops will deprive the terrorist group of their "wellspring."
Dillon said coalition forces have halted airstrikes over the past three days to allow for the evacuation of civilians. During this time, about 350 ISIS militants have surrendered in Raqqa.
ISIS fighters still control areas in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, which will likely be the site of the last stand for the militant group as it is squeezed by coalition troops.