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Battle 'over' against Islamic State in Raqqa

Military operations have ended against Islamic State in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, say the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Clearing operations were continuing to flush out the remaining fighters and locate landmines and booby traps.

Dozens of fighters were making a last stand in the city’s stadium – also being used as its weapons’ store – and some may still be holed up in its warren of tunnels.

About 100 fighters are left in the city, the US military estimated.

:: Raqqa ‘broken in every sense’ after IS occupation

:: The rise and fall of Islamic State in Raqqa

Earlier on Tuesday, the SDF said they had killed 22 fighters as they captured the city hospital, being used by IS as its headquarters.

The US-backed SDF is made up mainly of Kurdish fighters, but also Arab and other militias.

It has been battling since June to take the capital of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’, where the terror group would command military operations and foreign terror plots, and carry out brutal public executions.

SDF raise flags around Raqqa
Video:SDF raise flags around Raqqa
SDF forces near Raqqa's central hospital, which was taken from IS on Tuesday
Image:SDF forces near Raqqa’s city hospital, which was captured from IS on Tuesday

Coalition air strikes involving RAF jets have bombed IS positions in recent weeks to help set up the final push.

A formal declaration that the city has been fully liberated is expected when the clearing operations are over.

Fighters celebrated and waved yellow SDF flags in Raqqa’s al Naim square – which became known as “Hell Roundabout” after IS used it for numerous executions, often leaving severed heads and bodies on display for days.

:: The enormous cost of Islamic State’s demise in Raqqa

The battle to drive IS out of Raqqa continues
Video:Sept: Sky’s Alex Crawford with fighters in Raqqa

More than 1,100 civilians died in the battle for Raqqa, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) group.

IS first captured the city in 2014 and tens of thousands who fled are badly in need of aid, with charities saying “camps are bursting at the seams”.

The end of the Raqqa battle comes after IS was driven out of its main Iraqi base of Mosul in July.

Sky’s diplomatic editor Dominic Waghorn said it was now effectively a “mopping up” operation in Raqqa, but warned of a high risk that many buildings have been left booby-trapped with explosives.

An SDF fighter taking aim at IS positions on Monday
Image:A formal declaration that the city has been liberated is expected when clearing operations are over
Hundreds of thousands have fled IS in Syria and become refugees
Image:Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have become refugees after fleeing from IS

The victory in Raqqa is “hugely significant”, he says, but IS is far from defeated in Syria.

It still has fighters in other areas, such as the eastern city of Deir al Zor, and many fighters from Raqqa will have fled there.

However, Syria’s state news agency SANA, as well as the SOHR group, said government troops had captured several villages in the area, as well as most of the city.

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