The first shots have been fired in Islamic State’s prophesied ‘final’ battle. But will US and Turkish troops advancing on the town of Dabiq really trigger Armageddon?
The insignificant town is little more than a cluster of houses in a remote, flat Syrian field.
There are no riches here.
Not even an important crossroad.
But there is an old Islamic prophecy that places the town firmly at the beginning of the ‘end of days’. It is where the forces of Islam and Christianity are supposed to meet in decisive battle.
It’s a prophecy Islamic State seized as its own, using to drive religious fervor among its jihadists.
It even named its propaganda magazine after the tale of the first battle of the apocalypse.
Earlier this month US special forces and Turkish troops began to encircle the town, coming as close as a few kilometers..
Now the first shots have been fired — by Turkish artillery.
And Islamic State’s propaganda mouthpiece — Amaq Agency — claims one man was killed inside the village itself.
END OF TIMES
The prophecy of Dabiq has strong parallels with Christian tales.
Like Dabiq, the Armageddon of the Bible’s New Testament book of Revelations is centered on a town — on the hill of Megiddo.
As with Dabiq, this is supposed to be the start point of a dramatic and catastrophic conflict — one that eventually destroys the world.
Dabiq featured in a vision, one which saw an apocalyptic fight against Islam’s chief enemy — Rome — on the fields surrounding the town.
“The last hour will not come until the Romans arrived in al-A’maq or Dabiq, and an army consisting of the best people on earth in those days will hasten them from Medina,” the Prophet Mohammed declared some 1400 years ago.
Islamic State resolved to make this prophecy real.
The fields surrounding Dabiq, looking towards the hills in the west. This is supposed to be the site of the start of the final clash between Islam and Christianity.Source:Supplied
So they murdered a US hostage — Peter Kassig — in Dabiq in 2014
“Oh ye Romans, oh you Germans, you English, her French, her Dutch, you Italians, you Americans who gathered ye to fight Islam. Come!” the exultant Islamic State propaganda declared. “We are waiting for you. For more than 1400 years, we are waiting for you. And the promise of Allah is true!”
The prophecy states one third of the Islamic forces will flee. Another third will be killed. The surviving third will triumph.
This tale of an epic struggle appealed to Islamic State’s founders.
But now that prophecy is upon them.
Will they even put up a fight?
The prophecy may have an answer.
It’s a line the jihadists have studiously ignored.
It warns an Islamic ‘anti-prophet’ will emerge in the empty spaces between Syria and Iraq.
That’s Islamic State’s home territory.
JIHADISTS IN RETREAT
Turkey surged its tanks and troops into northern Syria and the border town of Jarabulus in August, seeking to create a 5 000 km ‘buffer zone’ to stem attacks from ‘terrorists’ — which in its terms include both the Islamic State and Kurds.
A band of US special forces advisers went with them — even though they had to witness attacks against the same Kurds they lauded as heroes in the epic defense of the city of Kobane against Islamic State in 2014.
The US would have no doubt as to the propaganda power of its troops walking through Dabiq’s streets.
It would represent a crushing blow to Islamic State’s death cult.
It’s mystic-religious credibility would be quashed.
Especially if there was no battle on an apocalyptic scale.
But Islamic State is in retreat, in Syria and Iraq.
Islamic State now finds its fighters spread thinly over a wide. And constant roaming air patrols make movements between these forces immensely difficult.
US-backed Iraq government forces are closing its grip on the city of Mosul — Islamic State’s last major urban stronghold in the east. While the Syrian city of Raqqa is considered the caliphate’s de facto capital, Mosul is the largest city under its control.
Friday, US-led Coalition air strikes blasted a path for Iraqi troops to push Islamic State out of the key town of Shirqat. The road to Mosul is now open.
The spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel John L. Dorrian, told The Associated Press that the coalition carried out “a very successful strike that eliminated a significant number of fighters who were trying to flee toward Hawija,” to the east of Shirqat, which is under IS control.
Shirqat, about 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, was among the first areas to fall into IS hands during the militants’ summer 2014 offensive.
Reports place 40 US special forces troops, with their specialist arms and equipment, among a large unit of Turkish and Arab soldiers seeking to surround Dabiq.
These forces are now centered in the captured town of al-Rai, about 14km from the prophesied battlefield. Troops have reportedly closed as close as 5km.
In reality, it’s seen as little more than a speed bump on the road to the far more significant Islamic State stronghold some 20km further down the road at al-Bab.
But it’s not been an easy conquest so far by US forces.
They’ve had to temporarily retreat to a more distant encampment behind the Turkish border to avoid a clash with an agitated Islamic freedom fighter unit nominally opposing President Assad.
It’s just one example of the religious-political cauldron the region has become.
But, with Dabiq in this tenuous coalition’s sights, what remains to be seen is whether or not Islamic State has the courage of its conviction.
What sort of fight will it put up this virtually indefensible town?
An apocalyptic showdown?
Islamic State’s version of the Dabiq prophecy, published in an issue of their propaganda magazine with the same name.
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