Syrian Rebels Announce The Capture Of Al-Bab From ISIS

Rebel fighters
Rebel fighters, part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield alliance, advance on February 20, 2017, towards the city of Al-Bab © AFP/File Nazeer al-Khatib

By Oladipupo Mojeed with agency report

After weeks of deadly fighting, the Syrian rebels on Thursday announced that they had taken full control of the northern town of Al-Bab from the Islamic State jihadist group.

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, the rebels backed by Turkey had overrun the centre of the town, which had been a key IS stronghold just 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the border.

Ahmad Othman, commander of the Sultan Mourad rebel group said that mines from the residential neighbourhoods are being cleared to allow normalcy return.

“After hours of fighting, we chased out the last remaining IS rank and file that were collapsing after the fierce shelling of their positions,” he added.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS fighters were still present in parts of the town and the rebels were in control of less than half of it.

The rebels launched their offensive to capture Al-Bab last year with the support of Turkish ground troops, artillery and air strikes.

“Yesterday (Wednesday), we captured the city centre, which was IS’ security zone. The jihadists collapsed, and this morning around 6am (0400 GMT) we completed the operation,” said Saif Abu Bakr, who heads the Al-Hamza rebel group.

Abu Jaafar, a field commander of the Mutasem Brigades, said he expected clearing up operations would be wrapped up within hours.

“Dozens of IS fighters were killed and we evacuated more than 50 families from inside Al-Bab,” Abu Jaafar said.

Turkey sent troops into Syria in August last year in an operation it said targeted not only IS but also US-backed Kurdish fighters it regards as terrorists.

The battle for Al-Bab has been the bloodiest of the campaign with most of the 69 Turkish soldiers killed dying there.

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