Fall of ISIS Capital: Photos Show Syrians Celebrating the End of Islamic State in Raqqa

In a major blow to ISIS, on Tuesday U.S.-backed forces in Syria liberated the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State militant group's self-declared caliphate.

"Everything is finished in Raqqa. Our forces have taken full control of Raqqa," Talal Sello, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, told AFP News on Tuesday

There may still be ISIS sleeper cells in the city, and the U.S. military seems reluctant to declare total victory. "After more than 4 months of operations, #Raqqa is more than 90% cleared," Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, tweeted on Tuesday morning. But major combat operations against ISIS in Raqqa appear to be over. 

Both residents and U.S.-backed forces have taken to the city's streets to celebrate an end to the oppressive rule of the militant organization, which publicly beheaded people and kept the bodies on display as it sought to impose its radical interpretation of Islam. Raqqa was sometimes described as the most isolated, repressed city on earth while under ISIS rule. 

These powerful photos and videos capture just how ecstatic people were to see ISIS's grasp on the city collapse. 

The battle to liberate Raqqa was fierce. It lasted four months, and much of the city was destroyed in the process as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes repeatedly pummeled ISIS. 

The loss of Raqqa is a massive symbolic defeat for ISIS, but it is not totally defeated. The group continues to hold on to the Syrian cities of Deir Ezzor and Mayadin, the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and territory along the Syria-Iraq border. 

ISIS once held a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria that was roughly the size of Belgium. It is now close to completely losing its self-declared caliphate, but that doesn't mean it will disappear. ISIS has a strong online presence and a network of cells that stretch from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Four U.S. special operations soldiers were recently killed in an attack by ISIS-linked militants in Niger, highlighting just how far the group's reach extends.

In short, the fall of Raqqa is certainly a moment for ISIS's enemies to celebrate, but the organization is not yet defeated.