The Islamic State has been battling Turkey and allied groups north of Al Bab, Syria since Nov. 2016. The US was reluctant, at first, to support Turkey’s ground operations near the town. But that changed after Turkey turned to Russia for aerial support. The Syrian regime and its allies also launched an offensive south of Al Bab earlier this month.
The Islamic State claims to have carried out 1,112 suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria during 2016. Additional suicide bombers were deployed in Libya and elsewhere. If the group’s claims are accurate, then the so-called caliphate has been using “martyrs” at a historically high rate.