US-backed forces prepare to hand Raqqa over to civilians after clearing IS miltants

US-backed forces who captured Raqqa from the Islamic State group prepared on Thursday to hand the Syrian city over to a civilian authority, with some of their fighters already headed to the next battle.

Inside the city, positions that had long been manned by fighters of the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces were abandoned, though some remained in the central Al-Naim square, dancing and ululating as they celebrated their victory.

The SDF battled for more than four months, with US-led coalition support, to capture the city that was once the de facto Syrian capital of IS’s self-styled “caliphate”.

They announced the end of combat on Tuesday, though operations to clear explosives and seek out sleeper cells were ongoing.

Raqqa’s capture leaves the jihadists with little remaining territory in Syria, most of it in neighbouring Deir Ezzor province, where some SDF fighters were already headed to continue the campaign.

 

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