Syrian rebels seize village where Islamic State promised final battle

Syrian rebels seize village where Islamic State promised final battle


BEIRUT, Oct 16 (Reuters) –

Its defeat at Dabiq, long a mainstay of Islamic State’s propaganda, underscores the group’s declining fortunes this year as it suffered battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq and lost a string of senior leaders in targeted air strikes.

The group, whose lightning advance through swathes of the two countries and declaration that it had established a new caliphate stunned world leaders in 2014, is now girding for an offensive against Iraq’s Mosul, its most prized possession.

The rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, took Dabiq and neighboring Soran after clashes on Sunday morning, said Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions involved in the fighting.

“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” he told Reuters, using a pejorative name for Islamic State.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said that Dabiq’s liberation was a “strategic and symbolic victory” against Islamic State.

The Free Syrian Army is an umbrella group for rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions, dragging in regional and global powers and creating space for jihadists.

It also chose Dabiq as the location for its (alleged) killing in 2014 of Peter Kassig, an American aid worker held hostage by the group, by Mohammed al-Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John.

MAIL ON SUNDAY

This file photo posted on the Twitter page of the Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch formerly known as al-Nusra Front terrorist group, on April 1, 2016, shows the militants marching in Aleppo province, Syria. (Photo by AP)

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