Militant group claims capture of German-made hardware and deaths of up to 70 soldiers during Turkish-led assault near al-Bab
Islamic State (IS) claims to have captured a number of German-made tanks from Turkish forces after overrunning them near the northern Syrian city of al-Bab.
The IS-linked Amaq News Agency said fighters on Thursday seized vehicles and military equipment belonging to Turkish special forces after they tried to capture Al Farouq hospital west of al-Bab.
Amaq quoted a source as saying IS militants seized two Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks, an armoured vehicle and a bulldozer and other military equipment, after members of the special forces fled.
The news agency claimed two suicide attacks had left 70 Turkish troops dead. The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights claimed that 14 Turkish troops had been killed on Wednesday, the largest Turkish casualty count of the conflict so far.
Video released by the group showed the captured vehicles:
— WorldOnAlert (@worldonalert) December 22, 2016
Following the attacks, at least 29 civilians including eight children were killed on Thursday in Turkish air strikes on al-Bab.
Turkish troops entered Syria on 24 August in support of pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, with the aim of ousting IS as well as Kurdish militia from the border area.
Turkish forces regularly carry our air strikes in support of the ground operation in Syria but officials insist the utmost is done to avoid any civilian casualties.
Ankara vows to press on
Defence minister Fikri Isik told parliament on Thursday that 1,005 IS militants and 299 fighters affiliated to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had been killed so far in the Syria operation, but made no mention of any civilian casualties.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed on Thursday to press on with the fight, saying: "Turkey is in the midst of a great struggle - our fight against terror continues both in our country and outside our borders."
'Turkey is in the midst of a great struggle - our fight against terror continues both in our country and outside our borders'
- Binali Yildirim, Turkish Prime Minister
The army has suffered increasing casualties in the fight for al-Bab - 25 kilometres from the border - with some 35 soldiers believed to have been killed so far.
"The operation to control al-Bab, which is being besieged under the Euphrates Shield operation, is ongoing," the army said in a statement on Wednesday.
The military had said earlier that the rebel forces, which have been launching attacks on Islamic State fighters in al-Bab for weeks, had largely established control over the strategic area around the town's hospital.
"Once this area has been seized, Daesh's dominance of al-Bab will to a large extent be broken," it said in an earlier statement on Wednesday, using an Arabic acronym for the group. Islamic State was using suicide bombers and vehicle-borne explosives intensively, it added.