The SDF has handed over administration of the former IS stronghold Raqqa to a council of local officials and tribal leaders, and a US-trained police force.
A US-backed Syrian force has declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former “capital” of Raqqa, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence after a four-month battle that left it in ruins. At a press conference held inside the city on Friday, the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces formally handed over administration of the devastated northern city to a council made up of local officials and tribal leaders and a 3000-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 IS 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 organisations to assist with the city’s reconstruction. The UN and aid organisations estimate about 80 per cent of the city is destroyed or uninhabitable.
“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 start returning to the city once the mines and explosives are removed. The US-backed Kurdish-led SDF announced on Tuesday they have driven IS militants out of the city after weeks of fighting. IS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicentre of its brutal rule.