U.S. rules out ne­go­ti­ated IS with­drawal from Syria’s Raqqa

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WORLD -

The U.s.-led coali­tion bat­tling the Is­lamic State group said Wed­nes­day that it won’t ac­cept a ne­go­ti­ated with­drawal for hun­dreds of IS mil­i­tants holed up in the Syr­ian city of Raqqa, once the ex­trem­ists’ de facto cap­i­tal.

The re­marks by coali­tion spokesman, Col. Ryan Dil­lon, came as coali­tion al­lies were work­ing out ways to safely evac­u­ate an es­ti­mated 4,000 civil­ians who re­main trapped in the city.

The coali­tion has said IS mil­i­tants are hold­ing some civil­ians as hu­man shields, pre­vent­ing them from es­cap­ing as the fight en­ters its fi­nal stages. The city, on the banks of the Euphrates River, has been badly dam­aged by the fight­ing, and ac­tivists have re­ported that over 1,000 civil­ians have been killed there since June.

The United Na­tions es­ti­mates 8,000 peo­ple are trapped in Raqqa, and said Septem­ber was the worst month in 2017 for civil­ians in Syria.

Dil­lon said the Raqqa Civil Coun­cil, a lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion of Arab and Kur­dish of­fi­cials, was lead­ing the dis­cus­sions to en­sure the safe evac­u­a­tion of civil­ians. How­ever, it was not clear with whom the coun­cil is speak­ing in­side Raqqa. A Kur­dish-led force, the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, is lead­ing the bat­tle on the ground.

“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.

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