By AFP – Oct 18,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by US special forces, celebrate at the frontline in the Daesh group’s crumbling stronghold of Raqqa on Monday (AFP photo)
BEIRUT — The Daesh terror group has lost its Syrian stronghold Raqqa, but the fate of hundreds of its foreign fighters who had been expected to battle to the death remains a mystery.
Captured by Daesh in 2014, the city became a “terror capital”, where the extremists carried out some of their most gruesome abuses and also planned devastating foreign attacks, like the Paris massacres of 2015 and August’s Barcelona attack.
Who were the Daesh fighters in Raqqa?
After the 2014 declaration of its self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq, thousands of local and foreign fighters flocked to the extremist group’s ranks, with Raqqa becoming its de facto Syrian capital.
US officials estimated as many as 40,000 fighters travelled to join the extremists over the years, dispersed across a territory that was once the size of Britain.
In Raqqa, the extremists put up a fierce fight after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) broke into the city in June.
But in four months the SDF seized around 90 per cent of the city, and fewer than 1,000 Syrian and foreign fighters were left in their onetime stronghold.
the fighters go?
Senior Daesh commanders are believed to have left Raqqa before the SDF penetrated the city, and hundreds of its fighters were killed in clashes with the SDF and in US-led coalition strikes.
As the battle neared its final phase, local officials negotiated a deal that saw several hundred Syrian Daesh fighters surrender with their relatives to the SDF forces.
The Raqqa Civil Council that negotiated the deal, as well as the US-led coalition, insisted no foreign fighters were among those who surrendered over the weekend.
Before the end of fighting, the coalition and SDF officials had estimated hundreds of diehard, mostly foreign fighters remained in the city.
But there was no public sign that those fighters had either surrendered en masse or been killed in the last 24 hours of fighting for the city.
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