Raqqa’s fall a ‘devastating blow’ to ISIS and its ‘perverted’ ideology: MP

Defence Minister Marise Payne said IS used civilians as human shields and used improvised explosive devices near homes and throughout neighbourhoods.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said IS used civilians as human shields and used improvised explosive devices near homes and throughout neighbourhoods. Photo: AAP

Australia’s defence minister has described the recapture of the Syrian city of Raqqa as a “devastating blow” against Islamic State as drone vision shows at least 80 per cent of the city has been destroyed.

Australia is a member of the global coalition which announced on Friday the recapture of the nominal capital declared by the terrorist organisation, who are also known as Daesh.

“This is a devastating blow against Daesh and its perverted ideology,” Minister Payne said in a statement on Saturday.

“Raqqa was the nominal capital of Daesh’s so-called ‘caliphate’ and was central to its political and ideological narrative.

“Alongside our Coalition partners, Australia remains committed to the mission, which now shifts to clearing Daesh from its remaining territory in the Euphrates River Valley on either side of the Iraqi-Syrian border,” she said.

The US-backed Syrian force declared victory on Friday, saying it was free of any extremist presence after a four-month battle that has left it in ruins.

At a press conference held inside the city’s sports stadium, the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] formally handed over administration of the devastated northern city to a council made up of local officials and tribal leaders and a 3000-strong US-trained police force tasked with governance and security.

Standing in front of shattered and collapsed buildings, senior SDF commander Talal Sillo appealed to the international community and aid organisations to assist with the city’s reconstruction.

The UN and aid organisations estimate about 80 per cent of the city is destroyed or uninhabitable.

“We call upon all countries and peace-loving forces and all humanitarian organisations to participate in rebuilding the city and villages around it and help in removing the scars of war that were inflicted by the (IS) group,” Brigadier General Sillo said.

He said 655 local and international fighters lost their lives fighting IS during the four-month battle for Raqqa.

He added that residents will be allowed to start returning to the city once the mines and explosives are removed.

Drone footage of Raqqa’s uninhabitable suburbs

Footage from Thursday shows the bombed-out shells of buildings and heaps of concrete slabs lay piled on streets littered with destroyed cars.

Entire neighbourhoods are seen turned to rubble, with little sign of civilian life.

The spokesman for the coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, tweeted that the SDF has cleared 98 per cent of the city, adding that some militants remain holed up in a small pocket east of the city’s athletic stadium.

CIA director Mike Pompeo said IS militants still pose a threat to the US even after being evicted from Raqqa.

Mr Pompeo said IS is capable of orchestrating and carrying out an attack, possibly downing a commercial plane.

“IS’ capability to conduct an external operation remains,” he said.

— with agencies

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