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Turkish-Backed Syrian Rebels Claim Capture Of Al-Bab


Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take positions during their advance on the city of Al-Bab on February 22.

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take positions during their advance on the city of Al-Bab on February 22.

Syrian rebel forces backed by Turkey have seized nearly total control of the city of Al-Bab from militants of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, Turkish officials said.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on February 23 that "today we can say that near complete control has been taken of Al-Bab."

Zakaria Malahifji, a militant with the Fastaqim faction, told Reuters that all strategic areas of the city have been captured and only "cleaning-up" operations are under way.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said about half of Al-Bab remains under IS control.

Al-Bab was an IS stronghold some 30 kilometers from the border. The offensive to take the city was launched in December.

Turkey launched its Operation Euphrates Shield in August with the aim of pushing IS militants away from its border with Syria.

Turkish state Anadolu news agency said about 1,900 square kilometers of Syrian territory along the border has been freed of IS control since the operation began.

The Turkey-backed militants are pushing toward Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria.

Based on reporting by Anadolu, Reuters, and AP
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