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No foreign fighters allowed to leave Raqa: local council

Foreign Islamic State group fighters have not been allowed to leave the one-time jihadist bastion of Raqa in Syria under a deal, a local council said on Sunday.

 

The statement from the Raqa Civil Council came after one of its members told journalists earlier that “a portion of the foreigners have left,” in reference to foreign IS fighters in Raqa.

 

The RCC said “for clarification and accuracy, the foreign Daesh are not at all the concern of the Raqa Civil Council and the tribal leaders and they cannot be pardoned.”

 

“Those who have surrendered are only Syrians, and they number a total of 275 including their families.”

 

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for IS.

 

Local leaders have for days been working on a deal to allow the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to secure the remaining 10 percent of Raqa under IS control while avoiding further civilian casualties.

 

On Saturday, a deal was announced and the US-led coalition said a convoy would leave the city, but there have been contradictory reports about whether foreign and Syrian IS fighters would be evacuated.

 

The US-led coalition has vocally opposed the exit of foreign IS fighters from the city, which the SDF has been battling to capture since June.

 

The SDF holds around 90 percent of the city, but has struggled to take remaining IS positions over fears of civilians being held as human shields.

 

Raqa was once the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq.

 

Its loss would be the latest in a string of blows to the group, which has ceded large swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.

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