ISIS had been preparing for an apocalyptic battle in a Syrian town that they believe would signal the end of the world.
At first glance, the town of Dabiq does not look significant. With a few clusters of houses in a flat field, the town looks unimpressive. It holds no importance economically and strategically, and it has no natural resources to boast of.
However, for ISIS, Dabiq is the location where an old prophecy from the prophet Mohammed will take place. The prophecy says, “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 militants believe the great battle called al-Malhama al-Kubra will happen in Dabiq, and once they defeat the “Romans” — a term they have used to mean the U.S. and its allies — the end of the world will come.
Since Aug. 24, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has moved south into the militants’ territory in the hope of breaking through the heavily guarded ISIS stronghold. And in the past few days, Syrian forces have captured villages near Dabiq as it advanced toward the town, which they claimed they would reach in less than 48 hours.
The rebel group, backed by forces from Turkey and the U.S., planned to infiltrate ISIS’ stronghold in the town of Dabiq in an effort to hurt the militants’ morale. With Syrian and Turkish fighters surrounding the town and capturing the nearby villages, and U.S. airstrikes hitting Dabiq, the militants appear to be facing a defeat.
But will the strategy to weaken the militants’ morale by striking Dabiq actually work? Some analysts believe it won’t. Kyle Orton, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, said that if the militants should lose in Dabiq, they would probably just claim it’s not yet the right time.
“ISIS' narrative stresses the setbacks the believers must go through to get to the promised land, so they will adapt to this pretty easily by simply saying that the showdown with Christendom was not meant to happen this time,” Orton said, according to Express.
However, a defeat in the town could cripple the group’s ability to recruit.
“The coming loss of the town — probably in the next fortnight — will be a blow to ISIS' ability to recruit, and the Turkish intervention, which has closed the border and driven a wedge between the opposition and al-Qaeda by giving the rebels a realistic alternative, jihadist recruitment in general seems set to suffer in Syria,” Orton said.
The militants are also claiming another probable site of the apocalyptic war. Al-Amaq, which lies near Antakya in southern Turkey, is also mentioned as a place of victorious battle against the “Christian armies” will happen, Express reported.