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U.S.-Backed Forces Take 'Full Control' Of Raqqa From Islamic State

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by U.S. special forces, celebrate at the front line in Raqqa on October 16.

U.S.-backed forces say they took “full control” of the city of Raqqa, long the extremist group Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria, following heavy fighting against a few dozen militants remaining in the city.

"The military operations in Raqqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines," a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Talal Sello, said on October 17.

"Soon there will be an official statement announcing the liberation of the city," he said, after the Kurdish-led SDF coalition seized the last pockets of IS resistance in the northern Syrian city, including its main hospital and stadium.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that IS was now completely cleared from Raqqa, which the SDF had been besieging for nearly four months.

The SDF said on October 15 that it launched its "final" assault to uproot IS fighters from the city after allowing some of the militants and their families to leave the city.

The loss of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, deals another blow to IS, which seized large parts of northern Syria and Iraq in 2014 but has been losing ground in both countries over the last two years.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa