Syrian rebels capture IS stronghold
SYRIAN rebels dealt a major symbolic blow to the Islamic State group by capturing the town of Dabiq where the jihadists had promised an apocalyptic battle.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkish state media and a rebel faction said opposition fighters backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery seized control of Dabiq on October 16.
The town, in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, is of little strategic value. But Dabiq holds crucial ideological importance for the IS and its followers because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an end-oftimes battle between Christian forces and Muslims.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Dabiq’s “liberation gives the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat new momentum in Syria”.
The Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group, said rebel forces “captured Dabiq after IS members withdrew from the area”.
The Fastaqim Union, an Ankarabacked rebel faction involved in the battle, said Dabiq had fallen “after fierce clashes”.
Fastaqim said rebels then went on to seize several nearby towns, including Sawran, Ihtimaylat and Salihiyah.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said nine rebels were killed and 28 wounded during fighting to capture the towns.
Video footage showed the streets of the town virtually deserted, with black IS flags painted on the facades of buildings.
Dabiq has become a byword among IS supporters for a struggle against the West, with Washington and its allies portrayed as modern-day Crusaders.
The IS, which seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq in mid-2014 and declared an Islamic “caliphate”, has been dealt a series of military defeats this year and is bracing for an assault on its key Iraqi stronghold Mosul.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkish-backed rebels would now focus on taking the jihadist-held town of Al-Bab in Aleppo province.
Turkey launched an unprecedented operation inside Syria on August 24, helping Syrian rebels to rid its frontier of IS jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia. –
A Free Syrian Army soldier covers his ears as he fires a mortar launcher during fighting against Islamic State (IS) jihadists on the outskirts of Dabiq.