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Turkey: Al-Bab, Syria, offensive against Islamic State nearing end

By
Eric DuVall
A Turkish soldier on his tank prepares for a military operation at the Syrian border on August 27, 2016. Turkey said it has nearly completed its offensive at the Syrian town of al-Bab. File Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA
A Turkish soldier on his tank prepares for a military operation at the Syrian border on August 27, 2016. Turkey said it has nearly completed its offensive at the Syrian town of al-Bab. File Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The Turkish military said Friday it is close to retaking control of the city of al-Bab in Syria, which had become an Islamic State stronghold near the Turkish border.

Turkey began an offensive against the Islamic State in August to retake al-Bab, located 20 miles from the Syrian border. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has condemned Turkey's actions as a violation of Syrian sovereignty. Assad's government also condemned civilian deaths as a result of Turkey's military campaign.

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In a statement, the Turkish military said Islamic State resistance in al-Bab has largely been put down.

"While the neighborhoods of the city have been reached, control in most parts of al-Bab have been established and a planned operation for taking control of all of the city as part of the search activities are ongoing," said military said. "The operation to gain complete control of the al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the [Islamic State] terror group has largely been broken."

Turkish forces have also targeted Kurdish fighters known as the PYD. Turkey regards the PYD as an extension of the Kurdish militant group PKK, which it has accused of carrying out terrorist attacks on Turkish soil.

The Turkish military said its campaign in al-Bab "neutralized" 185 "terrorists" -- mostly Islamic State fighters, though also some PYD fighters, as well.

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