Syria’s al-Bab largely under control of Turkey-backed rebels, Turkish PM says

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Rebel fighters stand with their weapons on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Turkey-backed rebels have largely taken control of the Syrian town of al-Bab from Islamic State militants, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

“Al-Bab has been largely taken under control. Our aim is to prevent the opening of corridors from territories controlled by terrorist organisations to Turkey,” he said while speaking to members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.

The Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes, swept into northern Syria in August in an operation, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” by Ankara, to push Islamic State from Turkey’s border and stop the advance of Kurdish fighters.

The rebels have been pressing a major offensive on al-Bab, 30 km (20 miles) south of the Turkish border for weeks. The advance risks putting them in direct conflict with Syrian government forces who are closing in on the city from the south.

President Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders have been saying for weeks that the al-Bab offensive was nearing an end.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler)

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