U.S.-backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa said civilians should not return to the embattled city before it is cleared of landmines and sleeper cells, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.
The statement by Kurdish internal security forces in Raqqa was released as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) combed the city for explosives and remnants of the militant group two days after retaking it from ISIS.
Reporting from inside Raqqa, AFP said roads were cordoned off and access to the city’s main hospital was blocked as SDF units worked to clear the area.
“They are making sure there are no more sleeper cells,” SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali told AFP. “Mine-clearing operations and the re-opening of the city are underway,” he said, explaining that a formal announcement of victory would be made when clearance operations are completed.
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The SDF said on Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa have ended, but the U.S.-led coalition said that only 90 percent of the city had been retaken from ISIS. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said about 100 fighters remained in Raqqa and that he expected the SDF to face some resistance from them, according to Reuters.
Linda Tom, a U.N. official in the Syrian capital Damascus, told the BBC on Wednesday that no civilians were thought to be in the city and the U.N. was ready to provide assistance to civilians who had fled Raqqa.
Citing the UNHCR, the Associated Press said that around 40,000 Raqqa residents had arrived in overcrowded displacement camps in the province in the past few days.
On Tuesday, Save the Children warned that most civilians who had fled Raqqa “will likely be stuck in camps for months or years to come,” according to the BBC.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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