RAQQA, Syria (Kurdistan 24) - The Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Friday announced the number of fighters they lost and the rescued civilians in the battle to retake the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS).
SDF lost 655 fighters and rescued 450,000 civilians in the offensive launched to retake the city, the group said in a press conference.
The conference was held in the Raqqa stadium in the city center which was the last pocket where IS militants were defeated in the final assault of the battle.
“We announce proudly from the heart of Raqqa the victory of our forces in the grand battle of defeating the terrorist organization of Daesh (IS),” the SDF spokesperson said in the opening speech of the conference.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media center said dozens of Yazidi women were rescued in the battles.
“After 134 days of historical struggle, 655 of our brave fighters won the honor of martyrdom,” he said.
“Those martyrs sacrificed their souls to save 450,000 civilians including dozens of Yazidi women and children,” he further pointed out.
The SDF announced the liberation of the city last week by a military parade with tanks and vehicles in Naeem Square, the main square in Raqqa where IS announced their caliphate in 2014.
The square was decorated with flags of the SDF, its strongest leading forces the Kurdish YPG, and its female counterpart, the YPJ.
The YPJ held a ceremony in the main square on Thursday and unfurled a huge banner of the jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.
An enraged Turkey said that raising the banner of Ocalan, who has been jailed since 1999, would further harm the relations between Ankara and Washington.
“Displaying a photograph of the PKK terrorist leader damages US-Turkey relations very seriously. With this move, the U.S. is not only cooperating with terrorists, but they are endangering the future of Syria,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Istanbul.
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s southeast over greater Kurdish rights. Washington rejects Ankara's claims about YPG.
Editing by Ava Homa
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Redwan Bezar)