YOU might remember the pictures — the obese Islamic State jihadi executioner swinging a four-foot sword in a public beheading.
The terrifying act, carried out by one of the terror outfit’s executioners, was the first time many had seen the horrid, squalid-looking square in which it took place. But its residents remember a very different setting.
It was once full of promise, but over the past few years, all that has remained in Paradise Square are the heads of victims mounted onto spikes — a deliberate reminder that what was once paradise, had become hell.
Today, a commander with the US-backed Syrian forces battling the Islamic State group said the city of Raqqa had been liberated from Islamic State militants and that combing operations were underway to clear the city of land mines and extremist sleeper cells.
Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told The Associated Press on Tuesday that there were no longer clashes going on in the city.
Sillo said a formal declaration would follow befitting “the fall of the capital of terrorism.”
Dozens of militants who refused to surrender had made their last stand in the city’s stadium, which had become notorious as a prison and dungeons for the group.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the IS militants were still holed up inside the stadium.
But Raqqa has been beset with unimaginable turmoil in recent years.
In November 2013, Islamic State militants cut the heads off one of Raqqa’s famous monuments. Raqqa was the first Syrian capital to fall when rebels seized control of the area earlier that year. When Islamic State took over, they decapitated a pair of statues, peasants, one man and one woman, holding a torch light and looking towards the sky. They were a symbol of the human desire for freedom.
“This was ISIS’s way of hinting that such a practice would later involve humans, in this very place. And that is what has happened,” a resident of the city told Vanity Fair in 2014.
It was the beginning of a murderous campaign that left thousands dead thanks to the terror group’s reported “Chopping Comittee”.
Not long after Islamic State militants took over the city of Raqqa in 2014 and declared its self-styled caliphate, its public square, Al-Naeem, or Paradise in English, become the infamous site of brutal public executions and beheadings and the heart of the group’s reign of terror.
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