BEIRUT, Lebanon — Kurdish-led forces said on Tuesday that they had taken all of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, a major blow to the militant group, which had long used it as the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate.
Officers with the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed militia group made up of Syrian Kurds and Arabs, said by phone and in press statements that they had taken control of the city after a monthslong campaign. But the United States Central Command stopped short of declaring victory, saying that fighters were checking to make sure all areas were clear.
Celebrations had already begun in Raqqa, where residents had lived under the repressive rule of militants who beheaded people in a central square for offenses as minor as smoking or communicating on the internet without permission. Fighters could be seen cheering in the streets, according to residents reached by phone and text message.
Still, the victory came with a heavy cost. Much of the city was devastated by American-led airstrikes that killed more than 1,000 civilians, according to tallies by local activists and international monitors. About 270,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting, and thousands of homes were destroyed.
Dr. Mohammad Ahmed Saleh, a resident now working in a hospital in the nearby city of Tal Abayad, said he was eager to get home but bracing himself for what he might see.
“I’m expecting to see a new Hiroshima,” he said by phone, taking a break from treating a new batch of 19 wounded people, a mix of civilians and fighters for the Islamic State recently escaped from Raqqa. “I’m trying to be mentally prepared when I go. I’ll be lucky if I see one of my house’s walls still standing.”
Raqqa, a remote city on the Euphrates River, took on enormous symbolic importance in Syria’s multisided war. In 2013, it became the first capital of a province to fall to rebels fighting the Syrian government. But a year later, it was taken over by Islamic State fighters, who in June 2014 overran the city of Mosul, Iraq, and declared a caliphate.
The battle against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, has consumed the region and led to uncomfortable alliances between domestic rivals like Kurds and Arabs in both Iraq and Syria. It has led to even touchier de facto partnerships internationally, with the United States, Russia and Iran all fighting the Islamic State in sometimes competing efforts and vying for influence in the aftermath.