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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

US-backed SDF say they have taken full control of Raqqa’s old city from ISIL

The claim has not been confirmed by the US-led coalition, which supports the Syrian Democratic Forces

The Syrian Democratic Forces said their fighters have taken the old city of Raqqa from ISIL. Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
The Syrian Democratic Forces said their fighters have taken the old city of Raqqa from ISIL. Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that they have taken control of the old city of Raqqa, Syria from ISIL on Friday, the de facto capital of the jihadist group’s self-declared caliphate.

The coalition, which is made up of Kurdish and Arab militias, have been fighting to take back control of Raqqa since June, helped by US-led jets.

"Our forces today seized full control of the Old City in Raqqa after clashes with Daesh," Talal Sello, a spokesman for the SDF, told AFP.

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Mr Sello added that the SDF were near the "security quarter in the city centre, where most of its [ISIL’s] main bases are".

The alliance said it now holds 65% of Raqqa in total, while ISIL still controls districts in the west of the city.

However, the claim has not been confirmed by the US-led coalition or the Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"We have not received confirmation of that through our channels," coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the SDF controlled 90% of the old city.

Elsewhere on Friday, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said that ISIL would be mostly defeated by October.

"What we are seeing is in my opinion the beginning of the end of this war ... what we need to make sure is that this becomes also the beginning of peace," he told the BBC.

Mr de Mistura said that he thought Raqqa would be liberated from ISIL by the US-backed forces by October.

He added that he expected the Syrian government and Russia to take back control of the city of Deir Az Zor- in eastern Syria- by late September or early October.