Ankara: Fifty-six Daesh militants were killed by Turkey-backed forces around the Syrian town of Al Bab and by US.-led coalition air strikes in the latest operations on Wednesday, the Turkish military said on Thursday.

Turkish artillery fire also hit 104 Daesh targets, including buildings and bombed vehicles, the army said in a statement, reiterating it had largely established control in the residential areas of Al Bab.

The Daesh stronghold, 30 km from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion with Syrian rebels last August to push the militants from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia.

Turkey’s army said 11 of the militants were killed in air strikes by coalition forces, while the rest were killed in artillery fire and clashes during operations in Al Bab.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said that seizing control of Syria’s Al Bab from Daesh is important to wiping out the militant group from its stronghold of Raqqa,

Ebrahim Kalin also said the argument that there was no alternative to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against Daesh was invalid.

Turkey is backing a group of Syrian rebels, mainly Arab and Turkmen, in northern Syria against Daesh and hopes to stop the advance of the YPG, which it sees as a hostile force.

The rebels have been besieging the town of Al Bab for weeks.