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Daesh surrenders Raqqa to US-backed SDF - monitor

  • 14 Oct 2017

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says all Syrian Daesh militants are leaving Raqqa after surrendering the city to the US-backed SDF.

A British SDF militants runs for cover to avoid sniper fire from Daesh militants in Raqqa, Syria on October 7, 2017. ( Reuters )

Syrian Daesh militants have surrendered their stronghold in Raqqa as the US-backed SDF moved into the city, war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Saturday. 

Daesh members that captured Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria in January 2014, have been locked in combat with SDF since June.

"All Syrian fighters from the Islamic State group [Daesh] left Raqqa over the past five days," said SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman, adding they numbered around 200 militants.  

He said negotiations are also underway for foreign militants to leave.

SOHR confirmed that buses were sent into the city to transport the militants with their families.

It remains unknown where they will be transported to.

Meanwhile, a Raqqa official said that Syrian Daesh members had surrendered overnight to SDF, without specifying how many.

"Those that surrendered are local, not foreigners – the foreigners have not handed themselves in yet," the official said.

"They sent a message to the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC) and to the tribal mediators."

Members of the RCC – a provisional administration for the city set up by the SDF – had been working with tribal leaders throughout the week to try to secure safe passage for civilians. 

Fate of foreign Daesh members

According to Abdel Rahman, up to 150 foreign militants remain in the city and negotiations on their fate are still ongoing.

"The foreign fighters are asking to leave in one group towards areas under IS [Daesh] control in Deir Ezzor province," in eastern Syria, he said. 

But a spokesman for YPG, which spearheads the SDF, denied on Saturday that any discussions were taking place for the surrender of the city.

"We completely deny any negotiations or deal for the exit of Daesh. Until this very moment, we are fighting Daesh," Nuri Mahmoud said.

The US-led coalition has also said that foreign Daesh militants are "not allowed" to leave Raqqa.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters led by the YPG, has been supported by US air power in the operation against Daesh in Syria.

The YPG is considered by Turkey an offshoot of the PKK, which has been designated as a terrorist group by Ankara, the EU and the US. 

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