The "Islamic State" (IS) group has been pushed out of Dabiq, a Syrian village with immense symbolic value for the extremists. According to an Islamic prophecy, the village would be the site of an apocalyptic battle.
Syrian rebels captured Dabiq and the neighboring town of Soran on Sunday, supported by Turkish armor, troops and airpower. Although the strategic significance of the area is minor, the IS had repeatedly described Dabiq as the backdrop for the final clash between Christian crusaders and soldiers of the Caliphate.
"The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished," said Ahmed Osman, head of the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad group, using a pejorative acronym for the "Islamic State."
Various sources, however, provided different accounts of the battle that started on the previous day, with the IS leaving 1,200 fighters to defend the town and fight off the rebels from three sides. With one rebel faction reporting "fierce clashes" with the IS, others say the terror group put up "minimal" resistance.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the rebels "captured Dabiq after 'IS' members withdrew from the area."
Pressure from all sides
Members of the Turkish-backed factions were now working to remove mines from the village, according to Turkey's Anadolu agency. The reports also said that nine Syrian rebels were killed and 28 wounded during the battle.
The loss of Dabiq is likely to be a serious propaganda loss, despite the IS saying that the latest battle is not the one described in the end-of-the-world prophecy. Both the English and French editions of the IS' propaganda magazine were named after the north-Syrian town.
The terror group is also under pressure in Iraq, where security forces are set to attack Mosul and reclaim Iraq's second-largest city.
dj/kl (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)