Cities, towns and territory retaken from IS

Cities, towns and territory retaken from IS
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army cheer and react as they fight against the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Dabiq. Photo: AFP
Published: 7:35 PM, October 16, 2016

BEIRUT — Turkish-backed Syrian rebels captured the northern town of Dabiq from the Islamic State (IS) group on Sunday (Oct 16), a monitoring group and rebels said.

Since IS seized swathes of Syria and Iraq in mid-2014, it has been pushed back by armed groups including US-backed Kurdish fighters, Iraqi and Syrian government forces.

By early October 2016, IS had lost 16 per cent of the territory it held at the start of the year, including crucial supply routes, according to IHS Conflict Monitor.

Here is a recap of key cities, towns and territory IS has lost in recent months:

KOBANE: A Kurdish town in northern Syria, Kobane became a symbol of the fight against IS. The jihadists were driven out by US-backed Kurdish forces in January 2015 after more than four months of fierce fighting.

TAL ABYAD: Another town on the Turkish border, Tal Abyad was captured by Kurdish and Arab rebels in June 2015. The town was the gateway to a key supply route between Turkey and IS’s Syrian stronghold, Raqa. Jihadist fighters and weapons regularly passed through the town before its recapture.

PALMYRA: IS seized the ancient town of Palmyra in May 2015. It blew up UNESCO-listed Roman-era temples and looted ancient relics. Syrian regime forces backed by Russian warplanes and allied militia ousted the jihadists in March this year.

MANBIJ: On Aug 6, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by US air strikes recaptured Manbij following a two-month battle. IS had seized the town in 2014 and used it as a hub for moving jihadists to and from Europe. It also controlled a key supply route for the group.

JARABULUS: Turkish troops and Syrian rebels swept almost unopposed into the border town of Jarabulus on August 24 during Operation Euphrates Shield, which also targets Kurdish militia.

SYRIAN/TURKEY BORDER: On September 4, Turkish troops and allied rebel fighters drove IS from its last positions along the border, making it harder for foreign jihadists to reach the group’s Syrian and Iraqi strongholds.

DABIQ: Syrian rebels backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery captured Dabiq on Sunday. The town, under IS control since August 2014, has crucial ideological significance for the jihadists because of a prophecy that Christian and Muslim forces will wage battle there at the end of times.

TIKRIT: The hometown of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein north of Baghdad, it fell to IS in June 2014, soon after Mosul. It was declared liberated in March 2015 in an operation by Iraqi troops, police and Shiite-dominated paramilitaries.

SINJAR: Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes recaptured Sinjar, northwest of Baghdad, in November 2015. That cut a key supply line linking areas held by the jihadists in Iraq and Syria. IS had captured Sinjar in August 2014 and pursued a brutal campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape against its Yazidi minority.

RAMADI: The capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province that stretches from the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad. Ramadi was declared fully recaptured in February, about nine months after IS seized it.

FALLUJAH: Anbar province’s second city and an emblematic bastion for IS, close to the capital. It fell to anti-government fighters in 2014 and became a key IS stronghold. Iraqi forces recaptured it in June this year.

QAYYARAH: Iraqi forces backed by coalition aircraft retook Qayyarah from IS in August, providing Baghdad with a platform for its assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second city.

SHARQAT: Iraqi forces announced on September 22 that they had recaptured Sharqat, an IS-held town south of Mosul. The town is near key supply lines the army needs for the battle to retake Mosul. AFP