Cornered IS 'hours from defeat' in Raqqa

John Davison
IS is cornered after the capture of Raqqa's city hospital in Syria by US backed forces

US-backed militias will capture Islamic State's last foothold in the jihadists' former Syrian capital of Raqqa within hours, a militia spokesman says.

A Reuters witness says the fighting appears to be almost at an end, with only sporadic bursts of gunfire. Militia fighters celebrated in the streets and chanted slogans from their vehicles.

A local field commander said no Islamic State fighters remained even in their two remaining city strongholds.

Fighting on Monday night and Tuesday has focused on Raqqa's National Hospital and the nearby city stadium, two central positions in which IS was well entrenched.

The fall of Raqqa city, where Islamic State staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement's collapsing fortunes. From the city, the group planned attacks abroad.

It is now hemmed in to a tiny bomb-cratered patch of the city around the stadium that is pounded from the air by a US-led coalition and encircled by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters.

Islamic State has lost swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul, and in Syria it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, took the National Hospital in fierce fighting overnight and early on Tuesday, said spokesman Mostafa Bali in a statement.

"During these clashes, the National Hospital was liberated and cleared from the Daesh mercenaries, and 22 of these foreign mercenaries were killed there," said Bali.

Another SDF spokesman, Talal Silo, said he believed all fighting around the hospital and the stadium would end in the coming hours.