Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies have entered the centre of the ISIL bastion Al Bab, saying its capture was just a “matter of time”.
“Al Bab is now besieged from all fronts … Our forces entered the centre” with Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul on Sunday before leaving for a tour of Gulf countries.
Erdogan said it was “only a matter of time” before the allied forces took full control of the flashpoint town in northern Syria.
“Daesh forces have begun leaving Al Bab completely,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, also known as ISIS.
His comments came a day after Turkish forces and allied rebels entered Al Bab to drive ISIL fighters from it, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor tracking developments in Syria’s conflict.
The Turkish army launched a campaign inside Syria on August 24, codenamed Euphrates Shield, to clean its border from ISIL fighters and stop the advance of Kurdish militia.
But the clashes in Al Bab have proved the toughest so far, with Turkish military fatalities increasing.
One Turkish soldier was killed and three others wounded in clashes with fighters on Sunday, the private Dogan news agency reported, citing military sources.
The latest casualty raised the number of Turkish troops killed in the Syria offensive to 67.
The three injured troops were evacuated from Al Bab and taken to hospitals in Turkey’s Kilis and Gaziantep provinces near the Syrian border, Dogan reported.
Al Bab is ISIL’s last stronghold in the northern province of Aleppo and is also being targeted by regime forces.