Saturday, 15 October 2016

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels attack terrorists' stronghold

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels began an attack on the Islamic State-held village of Dabiq in northwestern Syria on Saturday, a rebel commander involved in the campaign and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

However, Turkish military sources said the operation to take Dabiq had started earlier this month and that while air and artillery strikes were targeting the village, there were no new developments on the ground on Saturday.

Dabiq is symbolically important to the jihadist group because it is the site of an apocalyptic Islamic prophesy, and Islamic State has stationed around 1,200 of its fighters there said the Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor.


Euphrates Shield, the campaign by Turkey and allied Syrian rebels to clear Islamic State from areas along the border between the two countries began in August. Dabiq and another village, Soran, are in a pocket mostly surrounded by territory gained by the Turkey-backed rebels after recent advances.

A rebel commander in the Euphrates Shield operation said the attack on Dabiq had started on Saturday morning and the Observatory said the rebels backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes had begun their attack on the village's environs.

However, the Turkish military sources said the operation was ongoing.

"The operation for Dabiq started 10 days ago. We started the effort to take control of the region from the south. Daesh (Islamic States) targets are being hit by Turkish fighter jets and artillery" one of them said.

According to Islamic tradition, Dabiq will be the site of a final battle between Muslims and infidels heralding Doomsday, a prophesy that the jihadist group had encouraged its supporters to regard as imminent and named one of its publications "Dabiq".

However, in a recent edition of its al-Naba online publication, Islamic State appeared to step back from that position, saying that the coming battle for Dabiq between it and the Turkey-backed rebels was not the one in the prophesy.

While Euphrates Shield has pushed Islamic State from its last foothold on Syria's Turkish border, a longer campaign by the U.S.-backed, Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces has recaptured swathes of territory from the group since last year.

Islamic State also faces an expected assault on Iraq's Mosul, the largest and most important city it has held since its lightning advance across huge tracts of Syria and Iraq in summer 2014.

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