Some foreign Islamic State group fighters have left the one-time jihadist bastion of Raqa in Syria under a deal as the city’s capture nears, a local official said on Sunday.
“A portion of the foreigners have left,” said Omar Alloush, a senior member of the Raqa Civil Council, when asked about a deal announced Saturday for IS jihadists to evacuate Raqa.
He could not confirm how many fighters had left the city on Saturday, or where they had gone.
“They took civilians as human shields and left,” he added.
On Saturday, Allouch told AFP that a deal had been reached for foreign and Syrian IS fighters to leave Raqa.
Earlier, the US-led coalition backing the assault on the city said a convoy would leave Raqa but specifically ruled out the exit of foreign IS fighters.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, has been battling since June to capture Raqa.
They hold around 90 per cent of the city, but have struggled to take remaining IS positions over fears of large numbers of civilians being held as human shields.
Raqa was once the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq.
Its loss would be the latest in a string of blows to the group, which has ceded large swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.