A high-level defector from Kurdish-led forces that captured the Syrian metropolis of Raqqa from Islamic State has recanted his account of town’s fall, saying hundreds of ISIS fighters – many greater than first reported – left beneath a secret, U.S.-approved deal.
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Talal Silo, a former commander within the Syrian Democratic Forces, stated the SDF organized to bus all remaining Islamic State militants out of Raqqa despite the fact that it stated on the time it was battling diehard overseas jihadists within the metropolis.
U.S. officers described Silo’s feedback as “false and contrived” however a safety official in Turkey, the place Silo defected three weeks in the past, gave an analogous account of Islamic State’s defeat in its Syrian stronghold. Turkey has been at odds with Washington over U.S. backing for the Kurdish forces who led the struggle for Raqqa.
Silo was the SDF spokesman and one of many officers who advised the media in mid-October – when the deal was reached – that fewer than 300 fighters left Raqqa with their households whereas others would struggle on.
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Nevertheless, he advised Reuters in an interview that the variety of fighters who had been allowed to go was far increased and the account of a last-ditch battle was a fiction designed to maintain journalists away whereas the evacuation passed off.
He stated a U.S. official within the worldwide coalition towards Islamic State, whom he didn’t establish, permitted the deal at a gathering with an SDF commander.
On the time there have been conflicting accounts of whether or not or not overseas Islamic State fighters had been allowed to depart Raqqa. The BBC later reported that one of many drivers within the exodus described a convoy of as much as 7 km lengthy made up of 50 vans, 13 buses and 100 Islamic State autos, full of fighters and ammunition.
The Turkish authorities has expressed concern that some fighters who left Raqqa might have been smuggled throughout the border into Turkey and will attempt to launch assaults there or within the West.
“Settlement was reached for the terrorists to depart, about four,000 folks, them and their households,” Silo stated, including that every one however about 500 had been fighters.
He stated they headed east to Islamic State-controlled areas round Deir al-Zor, the place the Syrian military and forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad had been gaining floor.
For 3 days the SDF banned folks from going to Raqqa, saying combating was in progress to cope with militants who had not given themselves up.
“It was all theater,” Silo stated.
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“The announcement was cowl for individuals who left for Deir al-Zor”, he stated, including that the settlement was endorsed by america which needed a swift finish to the Raqqa battle so the SDF might transfer on in the direction of Deir al-Zor.
U.S. at odds with Turkey
It was not clear the place the evacuees from Raqqa ended up.
The Syrian Democratic Forces deny that Islamic State fighters had been in a position to go away Raqqa for Deir al-Zor, and the U.S.-led navy coalition which backs the SDF stated it “doesn’t make offers with terrorists”.
“The coalition totally refutes any false accusations from any supply that implies the coalition’s collusion with ISIS,” it stated in a press release.
Nevertheless, a Turkish safety official stated that many extra Islamic State personnel left Raqqa than was acknowledged. “Statements that the U.S. or the coalition had been engaged in large conflicts in Raqqa should not true,” the official added.
He advised Reuters Turkey believed these accounts had been geared toward diverting consideration from the departure of Islamic State members and complained that Turkey had been saved at nighttime.
Ankara, a NATO ally of Washington’s and a member of the U.S.-led coalition, has disagreed sharply with america over its help for the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters who spearheaded the struggle towards Islamic State in Raqqa.
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Turkey says the YPG is an extension of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by america and European Union.
Silo spoke to Reuters in a safe location on the sting of Ankara within the presence of Turkish safety officers. He stated the safety was for his personal safety and he denied SDF assertions that he had been pressured into defecting by Turkey, the place his youngsters stay.
A member of Syria’s Turkmen minority, Silo stated his choice to talk out now was based mostly on disillusionment with the construction of the SDF, which was dominated by Kurdish YPG fighters on the expense of Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian allies, in addition to the end result in Raqqa, the place he stated a metropolis had been destroyed however not the enemy.
The Raqqa talks passed off between a Kurdish SDF commander, Sahin Cilo, and an middleman from Islamic State whose brother-in-law was the Islamic State “emir” in Raqqa, Silo stated.
After they reached settlement Cilo headed to a U.S. navy base close to the village of Jalabiya. “He got here again with the settlement of the U.S. administration for these terrorists to move to Deir al-Zor,” Silo stated.
The coalition stated two weeks in the past that certainly one of its leaders was current on the talks however not an energetic participant within the deal which it stated was reached “regardless of express coalition disagreement with letting armed ISIS terrorists go away Raqqa”.