Syrian Islamic State fighters evacuate Raqqa city: SDF

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2017 2:18 AM

AIN ISSA, SYRIA (Reuters) - A group of Islamic State fighters evacuated the Syrian city of Raqqa overnight, taking civilians with them as human shields, a militia spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, continued to battle Islamic State jihadists who remain in the city, SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali said.

"Last night, the final batch of fighters (who agreed to leave) left the city," said Bali.

Bali said no foreign fighters had left in the convoy, but an official in the Raqqa Civilian Council, set up by the SDF and its allies to oversee the running of the city, said a group of them had departed with the others.

The official, Omar Alloush, would not say how many militants remained in the city, where the SDF has hemmed them into a small enclave.

Bali added that the Islamic State fighters refused to release the civilians once they left the city as agreed, but wanted the civilians to remain with them until their destination to guarantee their own safety.

On Saturday Alloush said the jihadists would be taking some 400 civilians with them as human shields.

The fall of Raqqa is a milestone in the battle to defeat a group that seized swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declared a new caliphate, carried out attacks in the West and inspired horror with its bloody rule over those living under it.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Louise Heavens)