Syrian rebels 'capture' IS stronghold of Dabiq

BBC | Published: 16:29, Oct 16,2016

Syrian rebel fighter

Syrian rebel fighters advanced on Dabiq on Saturday. — AFP photo

Turkish-backed rebels have captured the symbolically important Syrian town of Dabiq from the Islamic State group, rebel commanders and monitors say.

The rebels took Dabiq after ‘IS members withdrew’, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The small northern town holds great value for IS because of a prophecy of an apocalyptic battle, and features heavily in its propaganda.

The advance on Dabiq is part of a wider offensive by Syrian rebel groups.

Ahmed Osman, the commander of the Sultan Murad rebel group, told Reuters news agency on Sunday morning that the group had also recaptured the neighbouring village of Soran.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 1,200 IS fighters had been brought in to defend Dabiq.

It is just 10km (6 miles) from the border with Turkey.

In August, Turkey launched an offensive to clear the border region of militants, meaning both IS and Kurdish rebels fighting IS.

In September, the Turkish prime minister said the 91km borderline was ‘entirely secured’ and ‘all the terrorist organisations were pushed back’.

The battle for Dabiq has been building for weeks - with one village after another being seized from IS by rebel fighters backed by Turkish airstrikes.

In the end, it seems to have fallen on swiftly after the announcement of the final assault on Saturday.

Strategically, it's not a major prize. But IS has embraced it as a symbol of its apocalyptic vision of all-out confrontation with its enemies.

The town is named in one Hadith - or saying by the Prophet Mohammed - as the site of the climactic battle between Muslims and non-Muslims before the end of the world. The group named its online magazine after it, but has downplayed its significance recently, saying this battle is not the epic that was prophesied.

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