Turkish-backed Syrian rebels recapture town of Dabiq from ISIS

Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

Sunday 16 October 2016

Syrian rebel fighters backed by Turkey have seized the town of Dabiq from Islamic State, a symbolically crucial victory in the fight against the terror group.

Dabiq, which lies a few miles from the Turkish border, is the site of a prophesied battle between Muslims and non-believers that is supposed to take place at the end of the world, and has featured often in Isis propaganda. The group’s official magazine is named after the town.

On Sunday morning the rebel alliance backed by Turkey announced that it had taken Dabiq after Isis withdrew from the town.

“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” Ahmed Osman, the head of the Sultan Murad group, which took part in the operation, told Reuters.

The Levant Front, another group in the Turkish-backed offensive, published images from inside Dabiq shortly after the announcement, showing deserted streets and terrain.

The operation to reclaim Dabiq was part of Euphrates Shield, a campaign announced by Turkey in August in which Syrian rebel fighters have consolidated control over a stretch of territory from the Euphrates river to the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, aided by Turkish fighter jets, tanks and special forces troops.

Turkey launched the operation shortly after an Islamic State suicide attack on the city of Gaziantep, and it quickly led to the fall of the last Isis stronghold on the border, the town of Jarablus.

Euphrates Shield is also aimed at containing the Syrian Kurds, who have expanded their territory in northern Syria in recent months.

Ankara considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Syrian Kurdish militia, to be another wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a separatist group fighting an insurgency inside Turkey.

Dabiq was prophesied in a hadith, or saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad, to be the scene of a final battle that would precede Doomsday, and its control by Isis was a boost to their nihilistic propaganda message.

The town was the scene of the executions of American and British aid workers and journalists kidnapped by Isis, the filming of which came to symbolize the group’s brutality.

The Dabiq defeat is the latest in a string of losses for the terror group, which once declared its self-proclaimed caliphate was “remaining and expanding”.

The caliphate has instead receded: in Syria this year it has lost the historic city of Palmyra and the town of Manbij, north of Aleppo, as well as much of its holdings in northern Syria. In Iraq, it lost its stronghold of Falluja in the summer along with much of Anbar province. An operation to retake Mosul, the most populous city under its control, is expected to begin in the coming days.

Islamic State’s top lieutenants have been killed in targeted assassinations and airstrikes, including the recent high-profile killing of its spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, in an airstrike on al-Bab, a town north of Aleppo that is expected to be an upcoming target for the Turkish-backed coalition.

Source: The Guardian.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/16/turkish-opposition-fighters-syria-dabiq-islamic-state.

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