ISIL fighters and their fam­i­lies helped to escape from Raqqa in se­cret deal

The National - News - - NEWS -

About 4,000 peo­ple – ISIL fighters and their fam­i­lies – were re­port­edly al­lowed to escape the be­sieged city of Raqqa in Syria.

A se­cret deal ar­ranged by lo­cal of­fi­cials en­abled hun­dreds of ISIL fighters to leave the city, the BBC re­ported. The deal was made to spare lives of fighters op­pos­ing the ex­trem­ist group as the bat­tle to lib­er­ate the city en­tered its fi­nal phase.

The Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, an al­liance of Kur­dish and Arab fighters, hired bus driv­ers to pick up ISIL fighters and take them out of the city.

One of the driv­ers said that a con­voy of 50 lor­ries, 13 buses and more than 100 of ISIL’s ve­hi­cles, filled with weapons and am­mu­ni­tion, left Raqqa.

“We took out around 4,000 peo­ple in­clud­ing women and chil­dren – our ve­hi­cle and their ve­hi­cles com­bined,” an­other driver said. “When we en­tered Raqqa we thought there were 200 peo­ple to col­lect. In my ve­hi­cle alone, I took 112 peo­ple.”

Fighters of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties joined the con­voy de­spite an agree­ment with the forces that no for­eign fighters would be able to leave the city alive.

The US-led coali­tion was aware of the deal, un­der which 250 fighters es­caped with 3,500 of their fam­ily mem­bers, al­though it said it did not play an ac­tive part in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“We didn’t want any­one to leave,” said Col Ryan Dil­lon, spokesman for Op­er­a­tion In­her­ent Re­solve. “But this goes to the heart of our strat­egy, ‘by, with and through’ lo­cal lead­ers.

“It comes down to Syr­i­ans. They get to make the de­ci­sions re­gard­ing op­er­a­tions.”

The driv­ers were be­lieved to have set off on Oc­to­ber 12, five days be­fore Raqqa’s lib­er­a­tion.

The re­port will cause se­cu­rity con­cerns across the world from au­thor­i­ties who fear of an in­flux of ISIL fighters flee­ing Syria and Iraq.

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