WASHINGTON: The United States praised local Syrian forces Friday (Oct 20) for a "milestone" victory in driving the Islamic State group from Raqa, but warned the war against the extremists is far from over.
IS had controlled the northern Syrian city since early 2014 and considered it to be the inner sanctum of its claimed "caliphate."
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a combination of Kurdish and Syrian Arab fighters, wrested control of Raqa this week after four months of fighting.
"The liberation of Raqa is a critical milestone in the global fight against ISIS," the State Department said in a statement congratulating the SDF and other forces.
But the "loss of Raqa does not mean our fight against ISIS is over," it added, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
"The global coalition will continue to draw on all elements of national power - military, intelligence, diplomacy, economic, law enforcement, and the strength of our communities until all Syrians have been liberated from ISIS brutality and we can ensure that it can no longer export its terror around the world."
The US-led coalition of nations that has been providing air support and training to local ground forces also sent congratulations.
"We are still fighting the remnants of (IS) in Iraq and Syria, and will continue to facilitate humanitarian efforts assisting citizens adversely affected by a brutal occupation, who face a long battle to gain their freedom," Lieutenant General Paul Funk, who heads the coalition, said in a statement.
"A tough fight still lies ahead."