Turkish army says Syria goals achieved, hours after suicide blast
Turkey's incursion into northern Syria has achieved its goals in six months following the seizure of al-Bab, the head of Turkey's military said on Friday, hours after a suicide blast killed 45 people including at least two Turkish soldiers.
"With al-Bab under control, the targets planned at the start of the operation have been achieved. In the aftermath, support will be provided to normalise life and for the local people to quickly return to their homes," said chief of staff Hulusi Akar.
He added that the "Euphrates Shield" operation has been conducted with caution due to the unconventional nature of the conflict: The fight has often involved car bombs, suicide attacks and snipers.
His comments came hours after a car bomb tore through a village near al-Bab, killing at least 45 people and wounding dozens more.
The Turkey-backed rebels on Thursday drove Islamic State from al-Bab, the group's last significant stronghold in northwest Syria, along with the two smaller neighbouring towns of Qabasin and al-Bezah, after weeks of street fighting.
The car bomb on Friday morning struck military and security offices in Sousian, which is behind the rebel lines about 8km northwest of al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said.
Two Turkish soldiers were among those killed, the Turkish government said.
On Thursday, several Turkey-backed rebels were killed by a mine in al-Bab while clearing the town of unexploded ordnance after Islamic State retreated, the Observatory said.
Syria's main conflict pits President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, Iran and Lebanese militias, against rebels that include groups supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.
However, both those sides, as well as a group of militias led by Kurdish forces and supported by the US, are also fighting Islamic State, which holds large swathes of northern and eastern Syria.
Turkey directly intervened in Syria in August in support of a group of rebel factions fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner to drive Islamic State from its border. It also wants to stop Kurdish groups from gaining control of most of the frontier.
After taking al-Bab on Thursday, Turkish forces shelled Islamic State in the smaller neighbouring town of Tadef, the Observatory reported. The area immediately to the south of Tadef is held by the Syrian army and its allies.