The BBC has uncovered details of a deal that let hundreds of IS fighters – including foreign militants – and their families escape from Raqqa in Syria, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.
At the time, neither the coalition, nor the SDF, wanted to admit their part.
Has the pact, which stood as Raqqa’s dirty secret, unleashed a threat to the outside world – one that has enabled militants to spread far and wide across Syria and beyond?
Lorry driver Abu Fawzi thought it was going to be just another job.
He drives an 18-wheeler across some of the most dangerous territory in northern Syria. Bombed-out bridges, deep desert sand, even government forces and so-called Islamic State fighters don’t stand in the way of a delivery.
But this time, his load was to be human cargo. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters opposed to IS, wanted him to lead a convoy that would take hundreds of families displaced by fighting from the town of Tabqa on the Euphrates river to a camp further north.
The job would take six hours, maximum – or at least that’s what he was told.
But when he and his fellow drivers assembled their convoy early on 12 October, they realised they had been lied to.
Instead, it would take three days of hard driving, carrying a deadly cargo – hundreds of IS fighters, their families and tonnes of weapons and ammunition.
READ MORE HERE: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/raqqas_dirty_secret