Erdogan says ISIS fighters started to withdraw from Syria’s al-Bab

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. File photo

ARA News

Aleppo – Islamic State’s (ISIS) militant fighters started to withdraw from al-Bab city in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that al-Bab is now surrounded by Turkey’s military forces and allied rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“Daesh [ISIS] militants started to withdraw from al-Bab city. Everything is going according to our plan. The city will soon be retaken,” he said.

Erdogan added that al-Bab is not the main stronghold of ISIS. “Raqqa is their main stronghold. Once that city is secured, the whole region will be free of Daesh.”

On Saturday, Turkey’s military forces and allied Syrian rebels entered the city of al-Bab for the first time after months of clashes with ISIS.

The Turkish-led forces entered al-Bab from the northwest, seizing control of several neighbourhoods. This while the Syrian regime’s troops continued to push towards the city from the south, cutting off a main ISIS supply route.

However, Islamic State’s (ISIS) fighters still hold control of major parts of the city.

“Clashes are still ongoing in al-Bab, as ISIS militants continue to resist attacks by the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield campaign,” rebel spokesman Salih al-Zein told ARA News.

Turkey and its rebel allies have been bogged down in al-Bab for almost three months, taking significant casualties. ISIS constructed a warren of tunnels and an extensive trench line in anticipation of the fighting.

On August 24, the Turkish military and allied rebel factions launched Operation Euphrates Shield. As part of the operation, Turkey’s military and its allies took over Jarablus city in August.

In early January, the Russia Air Force conducted several airstrikes near al-Bab, targeting Islamic State’s tactical units and fighting positions. The Russian air raids destroyed key ISIS strongholds, killing and wounding dozens of ISIS militants.

On 4 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkey-backed offensive of the Euphrates Shield Operation to take Syria’s al-Bab city from ISIS should conclude soon.

In mid-January, the Syrian regime has also joined the battle for al-Bab city. Analysts believe that the regime is increasingly alarmed by the Turkish advance towards al-Bab, considering it a direct threat to eastern Aleppo, which was recently retaken.

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh and Helin Saeed | Source: ARA News

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