Don't miss




Cameroon's Constitutional Court rejects last petition for re-run

Read more


Music stars, French art and a dead cat's renaissance

Read more


Khashoggi Affair: Evidence mounts against Saudi Crown Prince

Read more

#TECH 24

Next stop space: Japanese company constructing nanotube 'space lift'

Read more

#THE 51%

The Gender Divide: Record number of women running in U.S. midterms

Read more


Reporters: Brexit, a sea of uncertainty for fishermen

Read more


Fishing in France's Grau du Roi harbour, a family tradition

Read more


French education reforms under tight scrutiny

Read more


FIAC 2018: Paris's one-stop shop for Contemporary Art collectors

Read more

Middle East

Syria's Raqqa handed over to local officials and tribal elders

© BULENT KILIC / AFP | Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) walk down a street in Raqqa past destroyed vehicles and heavily damaged buildings on October 20, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-10-20

The administration of the city of Raqqa was handed over to a civil council Friday after Syrian Kurdish-led forces backed by the United States declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital".

After a declaring four-month battle that left it in ruins, the northern Syrian city was declared free of any extremist presence.

At a press conference held inside the city, the Syrian Democratic Forces as they are known formally handed over administration of the devastated northern city to a council made up of local officials and tribal leaders and a 3,000-strong US-trained police force tasked with governance and security.

In a highly symbolic move, the press conference was held inside the city's sports stadium which Islamic State militants had turned into an arms depot and a huge prison where they incarcerated and tortured their opponents.

"Our victory is one against terrorism, and the liberation of Raqqa marks the latest chapter in the fight against terrorists in Syria," said Talal Sillo, a spokesman and senior SDF commander.

Standing before a backdrop of shattered and collapsed buildings, Sillo appealed to the international community and aid organizations to assist with the city's reconstruction. The UN and aid organizations estimate about 80 percent of the city is destroyed or uninhabitable.

Associated Press drone footage from Raqqa showed the extent of devastation caused by weeks of fighting between Kurdish-led forces and the Islamic State group and thousands of bombs dropped by the US-led coalition.

Footage from Thursday shows the bombed-out shells of buildings and heaps of concrete slabs lay piled on streets littered with destroyed cars. Entire neighborhoods are seen turned to rubble, with little sign of civilian life.

The video showed entire blocks in the city as uninhabitable with knocked-out walls and blown-out windows and doors, while some buildings had several stories turned to piles of debris. The stadium that was used as an arms depot and prison by the extremists appears to have suffered less damage compared with surrounding buildings.

"We call upon all countries and peace-loving forces and all humanitarian organisations to participate in rebuilding the city and villages around it and help in removing the scars of war that were inflicted by the (IS) group," Sillo said.

Sillo said 655 local and international fighters lost their lives fighting IS during the four-month battle for Raqqa.

He added that residents will be allowed to return to the city once the mines and explosives are removed. In other cities that the extremists lost earlier, experts worked for weeks to remove booby traps and explosives that kept maiming and killing people long after IS left.

Long before the ground offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces began in Raqqa in early June, warplanes pounded the city for months.

The US-backed Kurdish-led SDF announced Tuesday they have driven IS militants out of the city after weeks of fighting.

The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat for IS, which has seen its territories steadily shrink since last year. IS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.


Date created : 2017-10-20


    US-backed forces celebrate victory over IS group in Syria’s Raqqa

    Read more


    US-backed Syrian forces liberate Raqqa from Islamic State group

    Read more


    Syrian army retakes strategic military airport from Islamic State group

    Read more