First Published: 2017-10-17

Over 3000 civilians flee Raqa under deal with jihadists
Deal between Syrian IS fighters, Raqa council sees thousands leave to SDF-controlled areas with only relatives of foreign jihadists remaining.
Middle East Online

"Raqa is now empty of civilians who had been taken as human shields"

BEIRUT - More than 3,000 civilians have fled the Islamic State group's former Syrian stronghold Raqa, leaving behind only relatives of foreign IS fighters, a US-backed militia attacking the city said Sunday.

"More than 3,000 civilians left on Saturday night as part of a deal and went to areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces," Talal Sello, spokesman for the militia, said.

"Raqa is now empty of civilians who had been taken as human shields," he said.

"Only 250 to 300 foreign terrorists who refused the deal and decided to stay and fight until the end remain in the city, and relatives of some members are with them," he said, without specifying the number of civilians.

Sello said the deal had been negotiated between local officials from the Raqa Civil Council and Syrian IS fighters still in the city.

He said a total of 275 Syrian IS fighters and a family members had left jihadist-held parts of the city and were with SDF fighters.

He declined to specify where those fighters and their families would go.

"A statement on the destination of the fighters who have left under the agreement will be issued," he said.

Local officials had been in talks for days on a deal to protect thousands of civilians and capture the last 10 percent of Raqa still under IS control.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters broke into Raqa in June after months of battle to encircle the city.

Their campaign has been backed by the US-led coalition against IS, which said it had discussed the evacuation deal with local leaders and expressed its opposition to the exit of foreign IS fighters.

 

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

Rare moments of joy at Arabs’ unprecedented World Cup qualifications

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Egypt’s Sisi to meet Lebanon’s Hariri

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat

Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador to Berlin over Gabriel Lebanon comments

Russia again vetoes renewal of Syria gas attacks probe

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days