U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an official statement on Friday marking the liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State.
“Our work is far from over but the liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight against ISIS, and underscores the success of the ongoing international and Syrian effort to defeat these terrorists,” Mr. Tillerson said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S.-led Coalition, asserted control over Raqqa on Thursday, but clearance operations continued as some 100 ISIS fighters remained in the city.
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Mr. Tillerson said the U.S. and other Coalition members are “making every effort” to remove explosives left by ISIS from Raqqa.
“We are also supporting the efforts of the Raqqa Civil Council and other local Syrian actors to re-establish basic security and deliver essential services to stabilize communities, refurbish schools, and help facilitate the safe and voluntary return home of displaced Syrians,” he added.
ISIS occupied Raqqa in January 2014 and declared the city the capital of its so-called “caliphate.”
The terror group turned Raqqa into a “fortified military prison,” according to a Coalition statement on Friday.
“The terrorist organization used hospitals, mosques, schools and otherwise-protected sites as cover for the planning, execution and support of military operations. Daesh [ISIS] also committed violations of human rights for which individuals will be held accountable,” the statement added.
Coalition Commander Lt. Gen. Paul Funk said the military defeat of ISIS is “essential, but not sufficient.”
“We are still fighting the remnants of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and will continue to facilitate humanitarian efforts assisting citizens adversely affected by a brutal occupation, who face a long battle to gain their freedom…A tough fight still lies ahead,” he underscored.