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A perilous journey home for Raqqa residents

In the former self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State, two months after the end of the battle, Raqqa residents are already attempting to rebuild their war-battered city — a colossal challenge that has also proven to be lethal.

His footsteps echoed like gunshots in the ocean of silent stones. The soldier stopped, blocked by a pile of rubble, and glanced at the facades of what was not so long ago a crowded shopping street. Punched with bullets, cracked open by mortar shells, flattened by airstrikes and blackened by flames, most of the buildings seem to have been meticulously slaughtered.

After four months of a Dantean battle between the Islamic State (IS) and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Raqqa is now mute. Then, suddenly, the call to prayer resounded between the hills of debris serving as tombs for the civilians who could never escape. As one moves away from the city center, the thunder of shovels fills up the cold, dry air of what was for more than three years the capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate.

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