A Free Syrian Army fighter covers his ears as he fires a mortar launcher at IS jihadists on the outskirts of Dabiq. Pic/AFP
Beirut: Turkish-backed rebels captured the emblematic northern Syrian town of Dabiq from the Islamic State yesterday, dealing a major symbolic blow to the jihadists. The defeat for IS came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet European allies in London as part of a new diplomatic push to end Syria’s conflict, which has left more than 3 lakh people dead since 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkish state media and a rebel faction said opposition forces backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery had seized control of Dabiq on Sunday.
The town, in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, is of little strategic value. But it holds ideological importance for IS and its followers because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an apocalyptic battle between Christian forces and Muslims.
The Observatory said rebel forces “captured Dabiq after IS members withdrew from the area”. The Fastaqim Union, an Ankara-backed rebel faction involved in the battle, said Dabiq had fallen “after fierce clashes”. The Observatory said fighters also captured the nearby town of Sawran.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency also said the rebels had taken control of Dabiq and Sawran and were working to dismantle explosives laid by IS fighters.
It said 9 rebels were killed and 28 wounded.
Fighting continued in Aleppo’s outskirts and city centre yesterday, said the Observatory. State news agency SANA said two women were killed and 16 hurt in rebel fire on one govt-controlled neighbour-hood on Sunday.