Erdogan: Turkey, FSA close to capturing Syria's Al-Bab

13 February, 2017, 00:51 | Author: Brian Mcdaniel

Both Russia and Turkey have been conducting air strikes in Al Bab, which has been held by the Islamic State group since December.

Currently, the Syrian army is approaching al-Bab controlled by ISIL from the west and south, while the Turkish-led forces are attempting to advance into and liberate the town from the north and the east. Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have been trying unsuccessfully to capture the town from IS for months. Separately, a Russian airstrike killed three Turkish troops in what Russia said was an accident.

The president said at Ataturk Airport that Turkey had shared the idea of going further in northern Syria with the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), adding Ankara "will be follower of these thoughts". Al-Bab is special because it is the only place in Syria where all four have significant forces in close proximity.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lauded the advance of Turkish troops into northern Syria in what he called a drive to cleanse a 3,000-square-mile swath of territory of militants and Kurdish fighters.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016 to maintain border security citing ISIS terrorism and a desire to deny the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a safe haven in Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

The two countries reconciled previous year after ties were soured over the downing of the Russian jet in 2015.

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Two rebel officials accused government forces of provoking the incident.

"Daesh [ISIS] militants started to withdraw from al-Bab city".

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were also other mortar rounds that hit security checkpoints in the area on Wednesday.

There was no immediate comment from Damascus on the reported clashes.

USA -backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces last month dislodged the militants from the eastern side of Mosul, their last city stronghold in Iraq, and are preparing an offensive on the parts of the city that lie west of the Tigris river.

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