Turkey-backed Syrian rebels advance to IS-held al-Bab
Forces will advance to the city, some 30km from the Turkish border, with the aim of clearing the Manbij area of Syria, which serves as an IS supply route from the Turkish border to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the group's "caliphate".
"The target is to continue towards al-Bab and liberate Manbij area completely from Daesh terrorists," Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, using the Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army dislodged IS from Dabiq on Sunday, bringing an end the militants' rule of a town which holds immense ideological value.
— EuphratesShield (@EuphratesShield) October 16, 2016
" style="color:#fff;" class="twitter-post-link" target="_blank">Twitter Post
While militarily insignificant compared to IS strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, Dabiq holds crucial symbolic importance because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an apocolyptic battle between Christian and Muslims forces.
Speaking at a press conference, Cavusoglu said Operation Euphrates Shield against IS was making gains with tank fire and airstrikes.
"They [Free Syrian Army] have gained major successes in northern Syria and life is getting back to normal there. That's what we want to see in Syria," he said.
IS militants reportedly evacuated their headquarters in al-Bab in September.
"Dozens of ISIS military vehicles have left al-Bab carrying weapons and militants. They headed to the nearby town of Khafsa east of al-Bab city," a local media activist told ARA News, a Kurdish news website, using an alternate acronym for IS.
The extremist group is said to have deserted headquarters in the city including the Sharia court, al-Hisba police department, jihadist training camps and weapons' storage centres.
Turkey began military operations inside Syria in August and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels have taken control of more than 1,000 square km of territory from IS.