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Sun Dec 04 03:53:14 SAST 2016

Apocalypse no as IS doomsday town falls

Reuters | 2016-10-17 08:48:49.0
A view shows an office that was used by Islamic State militants in Turkman Bareh village, after rebel fighters advanced in the area, in northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria. File photo
Image by: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS

Syrian rebels said they captured the village of Dabiq from Islamic State yesterday, forcing the jihadist group from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.

Its defeat at Dabiq, long a mainstay of Islamic State's propaganda, underscores the group's declining fortunes this year as it suffered battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq and lost a string of senior leaders in targeted air strikes.

The group, whose lightning advance through swathes of the two countries and declaration that it had established a new caliphate stunned world leaders in 2014, is now girding for an offensive against Iraq's Mosul, its most prized possession.

The rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, took Dabiq and neighbouring Soran after clashes yesterday morning, said Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army factions involved in the fighting.

"The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished," he said, using a pejorative name for Islamic State.

The Free Syrian Army is an umbrella group for rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions, dragging in regional and global powers and creating space for jihadists.

An Islamic prophecy names Dabiq as the site of a battle between Muslims and infidels that will presage doomsday, a message Islamic State used extensively in its propaganda.

It also chose Dabiq as the location for its killing in 2014 of Peter Kassig, a US aid worker held hostage by the group, by Mohammed al-Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John.

The village has little strategic significance in its own right.

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