Vastavam web: The Kurdish-led force that expelled the Islamic State group from Raqa hailed a “historic victory” today in the devastated city’s stadium and vowed to hand over power to a civilian administration.Three days after fully retaking the northern Syrian city that was considered the inner sanctum of IS’s now moribund “caliphate”, the Syrian Democratic Forces held an official ceremony.SDF spokesman Talal Sello, speaking in front of a modest attendance of fighters and council members, said this week’s victory against IS was dedicated to “all humanity”.
For three years, Raqa saw some of IS’s worst abuses and grew into one of its main governance hubs, a centre for both its potent propaganda machine and its unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood.SDF spokesman Talal Sello, speaking in front of a modest attendance of fighters and council members, said this week’s victory against IS was dedicated to “all humanity”.For three years, Raqa saw some of IS’s worst abuses and grew into one of its main governance hubs, a centre for both its potent propaganda machine and its unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood.”After the end of clearing operations… we will hand over the city to the Raqa Civil Council,” he said.
He stressed the SDF would maintain its presence in the area and reiterated the Kurdish-Arab military alliance’s support for a federal system in Syria, something the regime in Damascus has so far opposed.France is the United States’ key partner in the international coalition assisting local anti-IS forces and a spokesman in Paris today argued some jihadists remained in small pockets of the city.Raqa was heavily damaged during the more than four-month battle, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said left more than 3,200 people dead, including 1,130 civilians.
Ahmed al-Ali, a 31-year-old member of the RCC’s reconstruction committee, expressed his shock at discovering the extent of the destruction before the ceremony.One of his colleagues, Mahmud Mohamed, admitted that his idea of what reconstruction would entail changed the second he entered Raqa.”When we came into the city, the plan changed completely.What I had imagined,” the 27-year-old paused, “it’s so much worse.”
The mood was sombre among the members of the council that will run the city as they sat quietly on plastic chairs while SDF fighters danced and sang noisily behind them.Some of the SDF fighters who fought in Raqa have already redeployed to Deir Ezzor to join a rival US-backed offensive in the province, a spokesman said.At least 16 civilians including several children were killed in air strikes in Deir Ezzor yesterday believed to have been carried out by Russian jets, the Observatory said.