Photos: US-backed Syrian forces celebrate fall of ISIS capital Raqqa

US-backed Syrian forces celebrated in the devastated streets of Raqqa on Tuesday after gaining control of the city, once the heart of the Islamic State's 'caliphate', dealing a major defeat to the group that has seen its territory shrink ever smaller since summer.

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST 8 Photos
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Rojda Felat, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander, waves her group’s flag at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqa on October 17, 2017. US-backed forces said they had taken full control of Raqqa from the Islamic State group, defeating the last jihadist holdouts in the de facto Syrian capital of their now-shattered ‘caliphate’. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Rojda Felat, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander, waves her group’s flag at the iconic Al-Naim square in Raqa on October 17, 2017. US-backed forces said they had taken full control of Raqqa from the Islamic State group, defeating the last jihadist holdouts in the de facto Syrian capital of their now-shattered ‘caliphate’. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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SDF fighters raise a white flag near the National Hospital complex where the Islamic State militants were holed up, at the effective frontline in the battle for Raqqa. ISIS took over the vibrant metropolis on the Euphrates River in 2014, transforming it into the epicenter of their rule, where opponents were beheaded and terror plots hatched. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

SDF fighters raise a white flag near the National Hospital complex where the Islamic State militants were holed up, at the effective frontline in the battle for Raqqa. ISIS took over the vibrant metropolis on the Euphrates River in 2014, transforming it into the epicenter of their rule, where opponents were beheaded and terror plots hatched. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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A civilian prays after being rescued by the Syrian Democratic Forces from the stadium in Raqqa. It took more than four months of grueling house-to-house battles for the SDF to recapture Raqqa, marking a new chapter in the fight against ISIS, whose once vast territory has been reduced to a handful of towns in Syria and Iraq. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

A civilian prays after being rescued by the Syrian Democratic Forces from the stadium in Raqqa. It took more than four months of grueling house-to-house battles for the SDF to recapture Raqqa, marking a new chapter in the fight against ISIS, whose once vast territory has been reduced to a handful of towns in Syria and Iraq. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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SDF fighters take selfies at the stadium in Raqqa after it was retaken from the Islamic State, on October 17, 2017. ISIS had turned the sports stadium into a notorious prison with reports of torture of those held captive. Dozens of militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Tuesday holed up inside. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

SDF fighters take selfies at the stadium in Raqqa after it was retaken from the Islamic State, on October 17, 2017. ISIS had turned the sports stadium into a notorious prison with reports of torture of those held captive. Dozens of militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Tuesday holed up inside. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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Chanting slogans, SDF fighters rode atop military vehicles celebrating the victory. Some even spun doughnuts with their Humvees and armored personnel carriers, hoisting yellow SDF flags around Naim, or Paradise Square -- the site of public beheadings and other killings by the militants. Bodies and severed heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with their alleged crimes, according to residents who later dubbed it ‘Hell Square.’ (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

Chanting slogans, SDF fighters rode atop military vehicles celebrating the victory. Some even spun doughnuts with their Humvees and armored personnel carriers, hoisting yellow SDF flags around Naim, or Paradise Square -- the site of public beheadings and other killings by the militants. Bodies and severed heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with their alleged crimes, according to residents who later dubbed it ‘Hell Square.’ (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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Crumbled and flattened buildings now stand as remnants, a sign of the massive destruction the city has suffered since ISIS took over. ‘Military operations in Raqqa have ceased and we are now combing the city for sleeper cells and cleaning it from land mines,’ Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told the AP. A formal declaration that Raqqa has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations, Sillo said. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Crumbled and flattened buildings now stand as remnants, a sign of the massive destruction the city has suffered since ISIS took over. ‘Military operations in Raqqa have ceased and we are now combing the city for sleeper cells and cleaning it from land mines,’ Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told the AP. A formal declaration that Raqqa has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations, Sillo said. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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An immediate challenge is clearing Raqqa of thousands of land mines and booby traps that have killed returning civilians and senior SDF commanders in recent days. One of those killed Monday was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF. Another challenge for troops is searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

An immediate challenge is clearing Raqqa of thousands of land mines and booby traps that have killed returning civilians and senior SDF commanders in recent days. One of those killed Monday was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF. Another challenge for troops is searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city. (Bulent Kilic / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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A Syrian family fleeing Raqqa, arrives at a refugee camp in Ain Issa, Syria. The battle for Raqqa has killed more than 1,000 civilians, many in recent coalition airstrikes and displaced about 270,000 who remain in critical need of aid. With the high level of destruction reported, most families have nowhere to go and are likely to be in camps indefinitely. The World Food Program said it was ready to send teams as soon as the area was secure enough. (Hussein Malla / AP File)

A Syrian family fleeing Raqqa, arrives at a refugee camp in Ain Issa, Syria. The battle for Raqqa has killed more than 1,000 civilians, many in recent coalition airstrikes and displaced about 270,000 who remain in critical need of aid. With the high level of destruction reported, most families have nowhere to go and are likely to be in camps indefinitely. The World Food Program said it was ready to send teams as soon as the area was secure enough. (Hussein Malla / AP File)

UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2017 03:28 PM IST
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