Turkish military says 44 Islamic State militants killed in Syria

The town of al Bab has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion with Syrian rebels last August


Reuters February 21, 2017
The town of al Bab has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion with Syrian rebels last August. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Forty-four Islamic State militants were killed by Turkey-backed operations around the Syrian town of al Bab and in US-led coalition air strikes on Monday, the Turkish military said on Tuesday.

One Turkish soldier was killed and two were wounded during work to clear landmines and explosives in the area, the army said, reiterating that it had largely established control in the residential areas of al Bab.

The Islamic State stronghold, 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion with Syrian rebels last August to push the militants from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia.

UN-backed Syria talks restart with rebels on back foot

Turkey's army said 15 of the militants were killed in clashes, artillery fire and air strikes during operations in al Bab, while the remaining 29 were killed and four buildings were destroyed in the coalition air strikes.

Meanwhile, a UN-brokered Syria peace talks restart in Geneva on Thursday after a 10-month hiatus that has seen the opposition weakened and political upheaval in the foreign powers shaping the conflict.

Since April 2016, when rival delegations were last in the Swiss city, government forces have recaptured territory including the former rebel bastion of eastern Aleppo.

Main opposition ally Turkey has forged a partnership with government-backer Russia while the United States, long the most powerful voice demanding Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s departure, is under new and uncertain leadership.

Hopes for a breakthrough remain dim with the sides still deadlocked over Assad’s fate and violence on the ground persisting.

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura has moderated three failed previous rounds of talks and said he was not “deluded” about the prospects for a deal this time.

But he told a weekend security conference in Munich, “it is time to try again.”

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