In a significant setback to the Islamic State (ISIS), Syrian rebels on Sunday confirmed that they had recaptured the important village of Dabiq from the control of the Islamic State. While the village of Dabiq might not be known internationally, the location holds a significant position in the ISIS narrative, owing to the fact that this is the location where the ISIS promised to fight an apocalyptic “final” battle against the West. The importance of this village could be assessed by the fact that the ISIS calls its slick, well edited and designed mouthpiece magazine ‘Dabiq.’
According to Reuters, Syrian forces backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes took control of the village of Dabiq as well as several neighboring towns in a fierce fight that lasted through Saturday night and Sunday morning. According to Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions involved in the clashes, the nearby town of Soran was also taken and is now under the control of the Syrian rebels. In a telephonic interview to Reuters, Osman said the following.
“The Daesh (ISIS) myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished.”
The ISIS narrative around Dabiq is based on a hadith about a battle that will take place in the village in the future. The Islamic State believes that Dabiq is where Muslim and infidel forces will eventually face each other. It is also the location where the infidels would be defeated and the apocalypse shall begin.
However, of late, the Islamic State seems to have “moved away” from Dabiq’s symbolism as it became increasingly clear that they might not be able to hold on to the village of more than 3,000 people any longer. The area was under constant attack from a coalition led by Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military. In a very recent message, the ISIS had claimed that the present day Dabiq is in fact not the place where the prophesied final battle would take place. More significantly, the ISIS also started a new magazine called Rumiyah which happens to be shorter and more concise than Dabiq. At this time, it remains unclear if the new magazine was created to lessen the importance that the village of Dabiq once held in the ISIS narrative.
Meanwhile, a Turkish military source has confirmed that ISIS fighters fled Dabiq overnight following yesterday’s battle. The area however is still riddled with land mines that were left behind by the fleeing ISIS cadre.
“It seems like Daesh has mostly left the area,” he told Reuters.
According to estimates released by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there were 1,200 ISIS fighters in Dabiq – a significant number considering the fact that the village did not have more than 3,500 people living there.
The latest offensive against the Islamic State and the capture of the village of Dabiq is all part of Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation that started in August. This operation aims to use Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military to take action against the Islamic State. Turkey also aims to keep Kurdish fighters who, incidentally, are also fighting the ISIS from gaining ground in the region.
Apart from Dabiq, the Islamic State is also expected to face a massive offensive against its most important stronghold in Iraq – the city of Mosul. Often portrayed as a picture-perfect city under the ISIS rule in its propaganda videos, ISIS ran over Mosul back in 2014 and has been occupying it ever since. The ISIS de-facto capital city of Raqqa is also under threat from U.S.-backed, Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.
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[Featured Image by Khalid Mohammed/AP Photo]