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A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May).
Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks.
One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî.
His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack.
He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group.
Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems.
All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017.
Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself.
ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty.
ìThe judge will now deci
Greater Manchester Police
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May). Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks. One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî. His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack. He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group. Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems. All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017. Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June. Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself. ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty. ìThe judge will now deci
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 
The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.
 / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold. / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
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(CNN) —  

US-backed militias on Friday declared the “total liberation” of the Syrian city of Raqqa, which for more than three years was the de facto capital of ISIS.

Speaking at a ceremony held to celebrate the capture of Raqqa, Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Talal Silo claimed a “historic victory” over ISIS and said the extremist group had suffered a “brutal” defeat.

He paid tribute to all those killed and injured in the struggle, as well as all the Syrian factions that battled for 130 days to force ISIS from its key Syrian stronghold and their international backers.

Silo said control of the city would be handed over to civilian leaders once clearing operations were completed and that the SDF would guarantee the protection of the city and its province.

“The future of Raqqa will be decided by its people,” Silo said, as he urged the international community to support their rebuilding efforts.

A daunting task lies ahead of Raqqa’s recently created civilian council, made up of local citizens, as they seek to restore the devastated city.

The ceremony was held in the same dusty Raqqa stadium where ISIS fighters made their last stand earlier this week.

SDF commanders told CNN that the choice of location was intended to add insult to injury following the extremist group’s defeat there.

Local officials, dignitaries and tribal chiefs from Raqqa and neighboring towns and cities were among those to attend, alongside members of the Syrian Democratic Council, which is tasked with helping to rebuild the city.

Footage from the former soccer stadium showed jubilant SDF fighters dancing hand-in-hand to music pumping from loudspeakers as they gathered ahead of the ceremony.

Prison cells

The SDF believe ISIS held many detainees within the stadium, the group’s biggest prison in the city, SDF chief press officer Mustafa Bali said. The SDF had hoped to find around 300 “missing” Kurds when the stadium was seized from ISIS control but they were not there, he said.

ISIS turned the changing and locker rooms on the lower level of the stadium into prison cells and interrogation rooms, Bali said.

On the lower level of Raqqa's stadium, holes have been punched through the walls of rooms to create a kind of "rat run" for ISIS fighters.
Ghazi Balkiz/CNN
On the lower level of Raqqa's stadium, holes have been punched through the walls of rooms to create a kind of "rat run" for ISIS fighters.

On the lower level, CNN saw room after room with holes punched through the walls to create a kind of “rat run,” through which ISIS fighters could move. A number of rooms appeared to have been used as cells. Some had what the SDF said were detainees’ names, with dates next to them, written on the walls.

The rooms on the lower levels have not yet been fully cleared and may still be rigged with homemade explosive devices, the SDF said. Large numbers of flies buzzed around the stadium, possibly drawn by the presence of corpses lying undiscovered under the rubble.

The SDF says the rooms on the lower stadium level have not yet been cleared and may be booby-trapped with explosive devices.
Ghazi Balkiz/CNN
The SDF says the rooms on the lower stadium level have not yet been cleared and may be booby-trapped with explosive devices.

A few ISIS fighters are believed still to be at large in the network of tunnels that ISIS dug under the city.

It could take months to clear the city of explosives, one Kurdish commander, Rojda Falat, told CNN.

Residents are being told to stay away from Raqqa for now, until landmines and booby traps – found in many of the towns and cities ISIS has fled – are removed. Many are living in overcrowded refugee camps as they wait to return home.

Tillerson: ‘Critical milestone’

The US-led coalition lauded the SDF’s seizure of the city in a statement Friday.

“An ethnically diverse force with local elements leading the fight, the SDF conducted a highly effective, professional operation in a difficult urban area to free the city,” said coalition director of operations Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga.

“They fought tenaciously and with courage against an unprincipled enemy, taking great care to move the population trapped by Daesh away from the battle area and minimize civilian casualties,” he said, using an Arabic name for ISIS.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also congratulated the SDF and the Syrian people on the liberation of Raqqa.

“The United States is proud to lead the 73-member Global Coalition that supported this effort, which has seen ISIS’s so-called caliphate crumble across Iraq and Syria,” he said.

“Our work is far from over but the liberation of Raqqa is a critical milestone in the global fight against ISIS, and underscores the success of the ongoing international and Syrian effort to defeat these terrorists.”

Tillerson said the fall of Raqqa marked the beginning of a “new phase” in Syria, in which the US and its allies would seek to reduce violence and renew UN-backed diplomatic efforts. He added that US President Donald Trump had played a key role in pushing ISIS out of its stronghold.

“In January, ISIS was actively plotting terrorist attacks against our allies and our homeland in Raqqa. Nine short months later, it is out of ISIS’s control due to critical decisions President Trump made to accelerate the campaign,” he said.

Black flag hauled down

A sustained effort to retake the city began in early June, in an operation led by the SDF and supported by coalition air strikes.

The US-backed SDF announced the last phase of the operation at the weekend. ISIS finally lost control of the city on Tuesday, when the terror group’s black flag was hauled down from Raqqa’s stadium.

The SDF declared “major military operations” over, although pockets of resistance remained.

Seized in early 2014, Raqqa soon became the nerve center of the group’s sprawling bureaucracy. It also was the hub for planning overseas terror attacks – especially in France and Belgium – because so many foreign fighters called it home.

Now, it is a symbol of the terror group’s decline. ISIS controls only a small strip of territory along the Euphrates River in northern Syria.

CNN’s Arwa Damon and Ghazi Balkiz reported from Raqqa, while Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Euan McKirdy, Laura Koran and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.