Turkish military: Al-Bab fully taken from ISIL
AFP photoTurkey and Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels gained full control of Syria’s al-Bab as part of the Euphrates Shield operation, the Turkish Armed Forces said Feb. 24, on a day in which two Turkish soldiers were killed in a suicide attack near the city, as dozens of others were also killed in a separate attack.
The military said clean-up work regarding obstacles, mines and hand-made explosives was ongoing.
According to the military, control was gained in a total of 230 residential areas and 1,925 square kilometers.
The FSA now has control of a 2,225-square-kilometer area along with the Azaz region, it said.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed and three more were wounded in an attack south of al-Bab staged by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Turkish military said Feb. 24.
The statement said the wounded soldiers were brought immediately to a hospital but were not thought to be in a life-threatening condition.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım acknowledged the incident while speaking to reporters outside a mosque in Ankara after prayers on Feb. 24.
Yıldırım said the suicide attack targeted Turkish soldiers who were conducting road checks at the entrance of al-Bab.
He added that clean-up works in al-Bab were continuing with the utmost caution to prevent casualties due to the presence of hand-made explosives and bomb set-ups in the city.
An ISIL car bomb killed more than 40 people on Feb. 24 in a Syrian village held by rebels, a war monitor said, a day after the jihadist group was driven from al-Bab.
The blast in the village of Sousian hit a security checkpoint controlled by rebels fighting under the FSA banner.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor of the war based in Britain, said 42 people were killed, and two rebels contacted by Reuters put the death toll at a minimum of 40.
One of the two, a fighter with the Sultan Murad Brigade near al-Bab, said: “It was done on a checkpoint but there were a lot of families there gathered and waiting to get back to al-Bab. Therefore we have many civilian casualties.”
Sousian is behind rebel lines about eight kilometers from al-Bab in an area in which Ankara has long supported the formation of a security zone it says would help stem a wave of migration via Turkey into Europe.
Meanwhile, the chief Syrian government negotiator at peace talks in Geneva said Feb. 24 that he had received a paper from U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura and would study it. A first meeting, however, has only covered the format of talks.
The opposing sides in the war came face-to-face at the U.N. for the first time in three years on Feb. 23 to hear de Mistura urge them to cooperate.
But with obvious tensions among participants at the opening ceremony and the opposition delegation not fully under one umbrella, there appeared little prospect the sides would soon meet directly.