Control established in most of al-Bab, says Turkish military
The Turkish military stated on Feb. 17 that it was close to completely taking the northern Syrian city of al-Bab from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), adding that the resistance of the jihadist group had been largely broken.
“While the neighborhoods of the city have been reached, control in most parts of al-Bab have been established and a planned operation for taking control of all of the city as part of the search activities are ongoing,” said the Turkish military in a written statement issued on Feb. 17.
Al-Bab, an ISIL stronghold 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield operation last August to push the jihadists from its frontier and prevent gains by Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) also fighting them.
Turkey views the PYD as a hostile force and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“The operation to gain complete control of the al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the Daesh terror group has largely been broken,” the Turkish military said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that monitors the war using a network of contacts, said Turkey’s Euphrates Shield forces had “not made much progress.”
ISIL still controls 90 percent of al-Bab town itself, the Observatory said, according to Reuters.
Turkish officials have repeatedly said the al-Bab operation was taking longer than anticipated because of numbers of civilians still in the town and the care being taken not to harm them. It dropped leaflets on the town as long ago as December 2016 urging civilians to seek shelter.
The military said a total of 185 “terrorists were neutralized,” giving the breakdown as 166 ISIL militants and 19 PYD forces.
Authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militant in question was either surrendered, killed or captured.