Turkish operations in Syria to continue after Dabiq liberated: Erdogan's spokesman

Free Syrian Army fighters walk past a Turkish tank mounted on a transporter in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of al-Rai, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

ANKARA (Reuters) - The liberation of the Syrian village of Dabiq is a “strategic and symbolic victory” against Islamic State and Turkish-backed operations will continue until the border area is fully secure, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Sunday.

Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, said they had taken Dabiq after clashes on Sunday morning, forcing Islamic State from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West. Turkey has named the offensive “Operation Euphrates Shield”.

“Strategically, it is important that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army forces will continue their advance toward al-Bab, a key terrorist stronghold,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters, adding the area around Dabiq was now being cleared to facilitate the return of civilians.

“Operation Euphrates Shield will continue until we are convinced that the border is completely secure, terrorist attacks against Turkish citizens out of the question and the people of Syria feel safe,” he said.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Nick Tattersall