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The New Arab

US dismisses negotiated withdrawal of Islamic State fighters from Syria's Raqqa

IS have lost around 90 percent of their territory in Raqqa [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 October, 2017

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The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said on Wednesday that it will not accept a negotiated withdrawal for hundreds of militants holed up in Raqqa.
The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said on Wednesday that it will not accept a negotiated withdrawal for hundreds of militants holed up in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

IS have lost around 90 percent of their territory in Raqqa to the Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab and Kurdish militia backed aerially by the US-led coalition.

The comments by coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon came as discussions continue on ways to safely evacuate an estimated 4,000 civilians who remain trapped in the city, once the de facto capital of the extremist group.

IS militants are holding civilians as human shields, the coalition says, preventing them leaving as fighting enters its final stages.

At least 1,000 civilians have been killed in Raqqa since June.

"We are seeing some good progress of civilians that are being able to safely exit Raqqa. The trend has turned into ... a broader effort by the Raqqa Civil Council to get the remaining civilians out of there," Dillon told The Associated Press.

He said at least 700 civilians have been evacuated from the city since Monday.

But Dillon added that discussions about the fate of IS militants remaining in the city have focused on "unconditional surrender."

A negotiated withdrawal "is absolutely something that we as a coalition would not be a part of or agree with," Dillon added.

Between 300 and 400 militants are believed to be holed up in about four square kilometres of Raqqa, including in the city's stadium and a hospital, he said.

The stadium is believed to be used by the militants as a weapons warehouse and a prison, while the hospital is one of their major headquarters.

The Raqqa Civil Council, a local administration of Arab and Kurdish officials, is leading the discussions to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians.

However, it was not clear with whom the council is speaking with inside Raqqa.

In the past three weeks up to 15 militants including a senior leader have surrendered in Raqqa, Dillion said, while another leading figure was arrested as he tried to escape among a group of civilians.

Since IS captured Raqqa in 2014 tens of thousands of civilians have fled the city.

The extremist group has suffered a series of major battlefield defeats in both Iraq and Syria in recent months, but has continued to stage attacks far from the front lines.

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