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Dabiq - Apocalypse Now

Syrian opposition fighters, backed by Turkey, took control of the northern Syrian town of Dabiq from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. The fighters said they seized the town on 16 October 2016 following heavy shelling and months of air strikes. Some 2,000 opposition fighters pushed into Dabiq with tank and artillery support from the Turkish army. The commander said the ISIL fighters left the town heavily mined. Both Turkish and international coalition warplanes conducted air strikes on Dabiq and nearby Arshak,

Various sources provided different accounts of the battle that started on the previous day, with the IS leaving 1,200 fighters to defend the town and fight off the rebels from three sides. With one rebel faction reporting "fierce clashes" with the IS, others say the terror group put up "minimal" resistance. In a bid to stop the village from being overrun, IS rushed overnight from its stronghold of Raqqa more than 1,000 mainly non-Syrian fighters to Dabiq.

With a final assault looming, IS propagandists appeared to be readying their supporters for a defeat at Dabiq, distancing the ongoing fight for Dabiq from the epic doomsday showdown, known as al-Malhamah al-Kubra, they once forecast. Earlier this week, in an online pamphlet, the jihadist propagandists downplayed the current fight for Dabiq. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the rebels "captured Dabiq after 'IS' members withdrew from the area."

Dabiq is considered a major ISIL stronghold with symbolic importance to the group, Dabiq, 10 kilometers from the Turkish border, is cited in apocalyptic Sunni prophecy as the site of an end-of-times battle between Christian forces and Muslims. Islamic State named its online magazine after the town in 2014. Every new edition of Dabiq opens with a quote by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mentor of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claiming, The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq.

Graeme Wood wrote in March 2015 that "... much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.... The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into Gods script as a central character.... pretending that it isnt actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it."

William McCants wrote in February 2015 "Westerners are not used to encountering apocalyptic messages in Islamist propaganda. Al-Qaeda downplayed Islamic prophecies of the Day of Judgment, preferring more accessible political rhetoric and wary of stirring messianic fervor.... the Islamic State is different. While its tactics and strategies are practical, its goals and motivations are eschatological. The interplay has expanded the groups territory and enlarged its ranks."

Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the groups theology, has said denials of the Islamic States religious nature are rooted in an interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.... People want to absolve Islam... Its this Islam is a religion of peace mantra."

Sheikh Ali Abu Muhammad ad-Dagestani, the new leader of the Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate or IK), noted: When jihad began in Shama, we were overjoyed, first, because we studied Islamic sciences in Shama, but second because we studied the hadiths which tell about the achievements of Shama, about the fact that in the end-time of troubles the faith will be in Shama, that Allahs angels will spread their wings over Shama, that the best land is in Shama, and that the Heavenly Group will be in Shama at the end of time.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant aims to establish an Islamic state in the regions it controls in eastern Syria and western Iraq. It aims to control at least the Sunni part of Iraq, and much of Syria and Lebanon. The emergence of a radical jihadist state in the heart of the Arab world would threaten the US, and American allies in the Middle East and Europe. In the long term the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant wants to be a global power, and, with the resources it is acquiring, the West and its allies face a difficult job to stop it.

There's a small town in Syria where some Islamic prophecies say a fierce battle will bring about the end of days, and Turkish troops, US military advisers and vetted Syrian opposition fighters appear to be heading straight for it. According to some early Muslim prophecies, Armageddon will be ushered in with a major Muslim victory against "Romans" in either Dabiq, less than 15 kilometers from the Turkish border, or al-Amaq, another town near Syria's border with Turkey.

Islamic State has interpreted this "Roman" army to be coalition and coalition-backed forces. The town name is even used as the title of the Islamic State's propaganda magazine. The prophecy continues that one-third of the Muslim army will run away, another third will be killed, and one-third of the army will win the battle and later conquer Constantinople, the modern-day Turkish city of Istanbul.

For Islamic State, a battle in Dabiq would symbolize that ancient Muslim prophecies could be coming true. For those who oppose the Islamic State terrorists, reclaiming the town from IS would mark a major propaganda victory.

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Page last modified: 16-10-2016 13:34:20 ZULU