Islamic State 'Capital' of Raqqa Falls to US-Backed Syrian Forces

'Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control'

Rojda Felat, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander, waves her group's flag at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqa on October 17, 2017. US-backed forces said they had taken full control of Raqa from the Islamic State group, defeating the last jihadist holdouts in the de facto Syrian capital of their now-shattered "caliphate". / Getty Images
Rojda Felat, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander, waves her group's flag at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqa on Oct. 17, 2017. / Getty Images
October 17, 2017

An alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters, who are backed by the United States, announced they have taken full control of the Islamic State's so-called "capital" of Raqqa, Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello released a statement on Tuesday afternoon announcing that the fighting was over after a four-month assault, BBC reports.

The SDF is expected to make a formal declaration of the city's liberation in the near future. The final assault came at the end of three years of IS control in the city, and involved a final stand from up to 300 IS militants, according to the the BBC.

Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa - the municipal stadium and the National Hospital.

Reuters news agency reported that fighters raised the flag of Popular Protection Units, a Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, inside the stadium and celebrated in the streets and chanted slogans from their vehicles.

Dozens of foreign militants were believed to have made their last stand in the stadium, while 22 were reportedly killed in the final attack on the hospital.

Up to 300 militants were thought to be holding out on Sunday, after Syrian jihadists and their families were evacuated under a deal negotiated by tribal elders.

"Everything is finished in Raqqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqqa," Sello told AFP news agency.

He said, however, "clearing" work now begins.

"The military operations in Raqqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines," he added.

Raqqa was seized by the IS in early 2014 and was transformed into their headquarters of their self-styled "caliphate" months after it fell to the rebels in the civil war. IS implemented an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, using beheadings, crucifixions, and torture in order to terrorize residents who opposed their rule.

After IS took over Raqqa, thousands of jihadists from around the world, heeding the call to migrate to the new "capital" by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The operation to capture Raqqa from IS began last November when about 15,000 SDF fighters, supported by U.S. coalition-led air strikes and special forces on the ground, moved in on the city.

The SDF is one of many players in the Syrian civil war. The group is comprised partially of Kurdish people who traditionally live in northern Syria and who declared the creation of an autonomous government in areas under their control in early 2014. The United State's support for the opposition force has been crucial to its success, drawing the ire of Turkey, who holds contrary interests in the region, according to Reuters.