Turkey says IS flashpoint town Al-Bab ‘under control’

PM says aim is to stop jihadists 'opening corridors'

ANKARA - Turkey said on Tuesday that the one time jihadist bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria was "largely" under the control of Ankara-backed Syrian rebels after months of clashes with jihadists.
"Al-Bab has largely been taken under control finally," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling Justice and Development Party lawmakers in Ankara, without giving further details.
Since December, Turkish forces supporting opposition fighters have fought jihadists from the Islamic State group (IS) to take control of Al-Bab.
Turkey launched an ambitious operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield" in Syria last August to rid its border of IS elements and halt the advance of the Kurdish militia.
Yildirim said Ankara's aim was to "prevent terrorist organisations opening corridors" where they could reach Turkey.
"From the start, our efforts have not been for nothing, we have reached our aim."
After a lightning advance retaking several towns close to its border, the operation faced the biggest challenge in the campaign so far with dozens of Turkish soldiers killed in the space of a few weeks.
But at the weekend, Ankara-backed fighters entered the town centre and the official news agency said by Monday, they had recaptured 40 percent of the town.
Hurriyet daily reported that rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's forces created a security corridor to avoid clashes in the battle to capture the flashpoint town.
Assad's forces have pushed towards the town from the south, leaving IS fighters completely encircled.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday the targets after Al-Bab would be Manbij -- a former bastion of IS that is now under the control of US-backed, Kurdish-led militia -- and the de-facto jihadist capital of Raqa, if "we take a joint step with (US-led) coalition forces".