Turkish-backed rebels captured the emblematic northern Syrian town of Dabiq from the Islamic State group on Sunday, dealing a major symbolic blow to the jihadists.

Source: b'Representational Image | Source: Reuters\xc2\xa0'

The defeat for IS came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet European allies in London as part of a new diplomatic push to end Syria's conflict, which has left more than 300,000 people dead since 2011.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkish state media and a rebel faction said opposition forces backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery had seized control of Dabiq on Sunday.

The town, in Syria's northern province of Aleppo, is of little strategic value.

But Dabiq holds crucial ideological importance for IS and its followers because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an apocalyptic battle between Christian forces and Muslims.

Source: b'An ISIS soldier in Dabiq | File Photo | Reuters\xc2\xa0'

The Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group, said rebel forces "captured Dabiq after IS members withdrew from the area".

The Fastaqim Union, an Ankara-backed rebel faction involved in the battle, said Dabiq had fallen "after fierce clashes".

Fastaqim said rebels then went on to seize several nearby towns, including Sawran, Ihtimaylat, and Salihiyah.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency also said the rebels had taken control of Dabiq and Sawran and were working to dismantle explosives laid by retreating IS fighters.

It said nine rebels were killed and 28 wounded during clashes on Saturday.

Dabiq has become a byword among IS supporters for a struggle against the West, with Washington and its allies bombing jihadists portrayed as modern-day Crusaders.

Earlier this week, IS downplayed the importance of the rebel advance on the town.

Source: b'Representational Image | Source: Reuters\xc2\xa0'

Turkey launched an unprecedented operation inside Syria on August 24, helping Syrian rebels to rid its frontier of IS jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia.

In provincial capital Aleppo, government troops have been waging a fierce Russian-backed offensive on rebels in the eastern quarters of the city.

Fighting continued in Aleppo's northern and southern outskirts on Sunday, as well as in the city centre, according to the Observatory.

Fighting has surged in Aleppo following the collapse last month of a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia, raising deep international concern.

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