Jihadists used city as a planning and operations centre
- Raqqa was the first big city Islamic State captured in early 2014, before its series of victories in Iraq and Syria brought millions of people under the rule of its self-declared caliphate, which passed laws and issued passports and money
- It used the city as a planning and operations centre for its warfare in the Middle East and its string of attacks overseas, and for a time imprisoned Western hostages there before killing them in slickly produced films distributed online
- The only populated areas still controlled by the jihadist group in Syria are the towns and villages downstream of Deir al-Zor along the Euphrates valley. They are areas that for the past three years Islamic State ran from Raqqa
US backed forces have said they had defeated Islamic State in its former capital Raqqa on , raising their flags over the jihadist group’s last footholds in the city after a four-month battle. The fighting was over but the alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias was clearing the stadium of mines and any remaining militants, said Rojda Felat, commander of the Raqqa campaign for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The fall of Raqqa, where Islamic State staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement’s collapsing fortunes.
Islamic State has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul. In Syria, it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert.
The stadium and hospital became the last major positions held by Islamic State after the departure of some of its fighters, leaving only foreign jihadists to mount a last stand.
The Syrian Democratic Forces has been supported by a US-led coalition with air strikes and Special Forces on the ground since it started the battle for Raqqa city in early June.