Turkey-backed Syria rebels secure Dabiq area, eye al-Bab
Turkey-backed Syrian rebels seized control of nine areas, including the village of Dabiq, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Oct. 16, largely imposing border security between the Turkish towns of Kilis and Karkamış, the military said on Oct. 17, as the country’s foreign minister said the next target was al-Bab.
Taking control of Dabiq has eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement on Oct. 17.
Nine Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters were killed and 24 were wounded while “many” ISIL fighters were killed in the last 24 hours of clashes, which are part of Turley’s Euphrates Shield Operation launched in late August, the army said.
The FSA rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, said they had taken Dabiq after clashes on the morning of Oct. 16, forcing ISIL from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, said on Oct. 16 that Dabiq’s liberation was a “strategic and symbolic victory” against ISIL.
“Operation Euphrates Shield will continue until we are convinced that the border is completely secure, terrorist attacks against Turkish citizens are out of the question and the people of Syria feel safe,” Kalın told Reuters, adding the area around Dabiq was now being cleared to facilitate the return of civilians.
Syrian rebels’ next target is al-Bab, says Turkish FM
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Euphrates Shield Operation would continue even more to the south of Dabiq, to al-Bab, which is located around 29 kilometers from the Turkish border.
“The target is to continue toward al-Bab and liberate Manbij area completely from Daesh terrorists,” the foreign minister said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
“[The Free Syrian Army] has gained major successes in northern Syria and life is getting back to normal there. That’s what we want to see in Syria,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Dabiq, about 40 kilometers northeast of Aleppo and around 10 kilometers south of Syria’s border with Turkey, has a symbolic importance for ISIL, as the group believes it will be the site of an apocalyptic battle with non-Muslims. Dabiq is also the name of one of ISIL’s online magazines.
“Strategically, it is important that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army forces will continue their advance toward al-Bab, a key terrorist stronghold,” Kalın also told Reuters.