Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have succeeded in capturing nine important border areas from the Islamic State—including the village of Dabiq, which features very prominently in the Islamic State’s propaganda and apocalyptic ideology.
Reuters reports on the military action:
Taking control of Dabiq had eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by the jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement.
It said that in the last 24 hours of clashes, nine Turkey-backed rebels were killed and 24 were wounded while “many” Islamic State fighters were killed. The operation, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” was launched in late August.
The Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, said they had taken Dabiq after clashes on Sunday morning, forcing Islamic State from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Dabiq’s liberation was a “strategic and symbolic victory” against Islamic State.
He told Reuters it was important strategically that the Turkey-backed forces continue their advance toward the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab.
The Islamic State’s hideous magazine Dabiq takes its name from the town captured by Free Syrian Army rebels, “because it is the site of an apocalyptic Islamic prophesy,” as Hurriyet Daily News explains. More specifically, Dabiq is supposed to be the site of a final history-ending battle between Muslims and infidels.
“Free Syrian Army takes the much talked-about town of Dabiq. Another area is cleared from the terrorists. Another [ISIS] myth is dismantled,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin declared on Twitter Sunday.
Hurriyet amusingly notes that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave an interview in which he assured readers “the fight in Dabiq between ISIL and Ankara-backed FSA members was not the one they were waiting for.”
There are conflicting accounts of how hard the estimated 1,200 Islamic State jihadis in Dabiq fought to protect the town, with one rebel faction saying there were “fierce clashes” plus extensive work to clear mines and booby traps from the city, while another commander said ISIS put up “minimal” resistance before falling back to al-Bab.
Hurriyet describes the attacking force as including about 2,000 opposition fighters, backed by Turkish armor and artillery support, and airstrikes from both Turkish and coalition warplanes.
The BBC quotes Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announcing that Dabiq was now under the “full control” of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.