Raqqa an occupied city until soldiers enter: Assad regime
DAMASCUS – Agence France-Presse
Damascus has said that it still considers Raqqa an occupied city, less than two weeks after a U.S.-backed alliance drove the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) out of its onetime Syrian capital.
Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad kept out of the offensive led by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that pushed ISIL out of the city on October 17.
The SDF is dominated by the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as terrorists due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Raqqa is still an occupied city and cannot be considered liberated until the entry of the Syrian army, which is fighting ISIL along with its allies,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The allegations of the United States and its so-called alliance concerning the liberation of the city of Raqqa from the terrorist group ISIL are pure lies,” said the statement carried by the official SANA news agency.
It said the goal of the United States was to “divert the eyes of the international community from the crimes committed by this alliance in the province of Raqqa.”
That was a reference to the U.S.-led coalition’s deadly bombing campaign in the region.
ISIL has faced rival offensives in Syria, from the regime backed by its ally Russia, and the SDF supported by the United States and other countries.
Raqqa is the latest in a string of victories for the Kurd and Arab alliance against ISIL on the back of the U.S.-led bombing campaign.
The al-Assad regime has been able to recapture more than half of Syria’s territory with the support of Russian air strikes.