Kurdbrokered deal allowed IS fighters to flee Raqqa: Report
SECRET ARRANGEMENT Fighters, including Pakistanis and Europeans, left Syrian city ‘under gaze of Usled troops’
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Islamic State fighters, including Pakistanis and Europeans, escaped from the terror group’s former stronghold of Raqqa in Syria as part of a deal brokered by Kurdish fighters and backed by Us-led foreign troops, BBC has reported.
A convoy of almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 IS vehicles left Raqqa on October 12, “under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city”, the report said. Some of IS’S “most notorious members” and “dozens of foreign fighters” were part of the convoy and there are fears that the fighters could return to their own countries.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, told truck drivers who joined the convoy that they were to take hundreds of displaced families from Tabqa town to a camp further north.
But when the drivers assembled the convoy on October 12, they realised “they had been lied to” as their “deadly cargo” comprised “hundreds of IS fighters, their families and tonnes of weapons and ammunition”.
It was initially understood that no foreign fighter would be allowed to leave Raqqa alive. But foreign fighters were able to join the convoy, according to the drivers. One driver told the BBC: “There was a huge number of foreigners. France, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi, China, Tunisia, Egypt...”
The report said, “The deal to let IS fighters escape from Raqqa – de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate – had been arranged by local officials. It came after four months of fighting that left the city obliterated and almost devoid of people. It would spare lives and bring fighting to an end. The lives of the Arab, Kurdish and other fighters opposing IS would be spared.
“But it also enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part.”
Some of the foreign fighters have spread out across Syria, and some have sneaked into Turkey, BBC reported after speaking to people “who were either on the convoy, or observed it, and to the men who negotiated the deal”.
The SDF cleared Raqqa of media so that the escape of the IS fighters from their base would not be televised.
Following the BBC investigation, the Us-led coalition admitted the part it played in the deal. Some 250 IS fighters were allowed to leave Raqqa, with 3,500 of their family members.