After PYD-led “Syrian Democratic Forces SDF” captured Raqqa city in November 2017, it banned journalists from entering the city without the militia’s fighters accompanying them so the journalist move in specific areas beside it banned civilians from returning to their houses and only allowed them to visit it for several hours.
In this 3 months period and under the pretext of ISIS sleep cells, SDF started sweeping civilian houses and service building not to clean it from ISIS mines and booby-traps but to loot it and kept looting it after Raqqa locals came back to their houses.
Mahmod al-Soliman Abu Muthana a local from Raqqa city told NSO: I was only allowed to check my house after ISIS withdrew from Raqqa, during the few hours I spent in the city I saw the looting by SDF to public service buildings with my own eyes in addition to civilian houses and markets.
According to what Raqqa locals told our reporter the looting reached a higher level on April when SDF put its hands on all civil service buildings and started demolishing it and sell whatever they can such as metal beams, doors and locks via bids that go to businessmen close to SDF officials.
*The Governor’s Palace
Looting in Raqqa started from the Governor’s Palace which is the biggest building in the city, it was damaged in an airstrike in summer 2017 and the demolishing and looting started in February 2018.
A source in Raqqa Local Council told NSO reporter that SDF used local workers and bulldozers from PYD-led Local Council to remove the rubbles of the building and confiscate all the metal beams while it was doing the US-funded rubbles management project carried out by the reconstruction committee of the Council.
The committee removed all rubbles after taking the metal beams and processed it then sold it in the metal market in north Raqqa for 200k SYP (445$) for 1 ton.
According to one of the engineers who were working in the Governor’s Palace between 2000-2010 that they used more than 400 ton of metal beams during construction and at that time 1 ton of metal was around 50k SYP (1000$), the building covers 2000m² and consists off 3 4 floors and 3 underground floors.
*The new Ba’ath Party building and Agriculture Directorate
In the center of Raqqa city, the new building of Ba’ath Party didn’t witness a huge destruction but this didn’t stop SDF from demolishing the building and take the metal beams.
Our reporter cited eyewitnesses in Raqqa who said that demolishing started in mid-March via SDF-affiliated Raqqa Local council, almost two thirds of the building was demolished in a certain way to take the metal beams to sell it in metal market northeast Raqqa.
According to local civil engineer the Ba’ath Party building covers around 1200 m² and used 300 ton of metal beams costed around 300k $.
The Agriculture Directorate building in west Raqqa was also looted, workshops started demolishing it in May under the pretext that the building was out of service due to the military campaign despite that it wasn’t targeted with airstrikes but damaged due to some shells.
According to the same engineer the building covers around 1000m² and used 220 ton of metal beams.
*The goal is not metal only
Looting campaign didn’t only aimed at the metal beams, SDF personnel also looted the warehouse of Water Directorate, and Raqqa Local Council trucks guarded by SDF fighters moved the stolen items to an unknown area outside the city.
One of the engineers who prefers to stay anonymous told NSO that the water and sewers pipes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and can’t be replaced easily because it is identical to the water facility and sewage management in Raqqa.
The engineer added that the stolen items are water and sewer pipes and polyethylene pipes in addition to dozens of other accessories.
The engineer said that the looting of Water and Sewer Directorate can’t be repaired or re-buy it because it took years to buy it from many countries and losing it affected the water network while the city suffers from water shortage.
*Where SDF sell the stolen items?
NSO reporter met some traders in metal market in northeast Raqqa and knew that businessmen close to SDF sold more than 500 ton of metal in the market for 190k SYP per ton which is around 425$.
Many traders told NSO reporter that the used metal sold for 200k per ton and many civilians buy it to repair their damaged houses, many traders were promised by businessmen close to SDF to sell more metal once they finish demolishing buildings and taking metal beams.
One of the traders told NSO that SDF banned them from buying metal from unknown sources but the businessmen came to the market accompanied by SDF personnel so they won’t be asked where did they get the metal from, and according to the traders one of the businessmen close to SDF and called “al-Jawish” from Raqqa northern countryside controls the process of demolishing buildings and selling metal beams.
The looting campaign comes while SDF-affiliated Raqqa Local Council launch projects with US funding to buy same accessories looted by SDF under the title of “reconstruction in Raqqa”
Ahmad al-Shalhom a local man from Raqqa told NSO “we filed several complaints to the courts affiliated to SDF in Raqqa to investigate the looting and sent messages to International Coalition Representative Brett Mcgurk explaining what happened in the city but we received no reply”