Country Risk

Islamic State video reveals Turkish defeat in Syria

30 January 2017
Airbus Defence and Space imagery dated 22 January showing the location of damaged or destroyed Turkish military vehicles seen in an Islamic State video documenting its battle with Turkish and allied Syrian forces around the city of Al-Bab in late December 2016. Source: CNES 2017, Distribution Airbus DS / Halab Wilayah / 2017 IHS Markit

Key Points

  • Satellite imagery and Islamic State video footage show what appears to be a significant defeat for the Turkish military in Syria
  • Turkey lost around 12 armoured vehicles during a push to capture the Islamic State-held city of Al-Bab in December

The Islamic State released a video on 20 January indicating that the Turkish military suffered a significant defeat when it attempted to capture the Islamic State-held city of Al-Bab in northern Syria in December 2016.

The 27-minute video provided context to a series of clips and still images that the extremist group's Aleppo wing released over the previous month showing attacks on Turkish forces and damaged armoured vehicles.

The earlier imagery suggested the Turkish army was losing significant numbers of Leopard 2A4 tanks and other armoured vehicles during Operation 'Euphrates Shield', which was launched in August 2016 with the support of allied Syrian opposition groups.

The video showed most of these losses were suffered around the hospital located on high ground that overlooks Al-Bab to the east.

The Turkish military reported that its forces had largely taken control of the hospital by 21 December. "Once this area has been seized, [the Islamic State's] dominance of Al-Bab will to a large extent be broken," Reuters quoted it as saying on that day. Three days later Defence Minister Fikri Isik said the hospital had been cleared of militants.

The Islamic State video indicates that the Turks managed to at least partially occupy the hospital compound but failed to hold it.

Analysis of the video shows at least seven Leopard 2A4 tanks, a single M60T tank, an ACV armoured personnel carrier, two Cobra light armoured vehicles, and a ZPT patrol vehicle were either disabled or destroyed during the fighting.

Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery of the Al-Bab area obtained by IHS Jane's shows that on 22 January six of the eight tanks were still in the locations where they were seen in the video.

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