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Kurdish-led forces capture Tabqa airbase west of Syria's Raqqa from IS control

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-27 09:34

Kurdish-led forces capture Tabqa airbase west of Syria's Raqqa from IS control

A Syrian soldier flashes the victory sign at the Abbasyieen area in the east of Damascus, capital of Syria, on March 20, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

DAMASCUS - The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fully captured the Tabqa airport west of the northern city of Raqqa on Sunday, following battles with the Islamic State (IS) group, the SDF spokesman told Xinhua.

Tabqa airport in a city bearing the same name in the western countryside of Raqqa, is the first airport to be controlled by the Kurdish-led groups, Talal Silo, the SDF military spokesman, told Xinhua. He added that the airport will be used to bring in humanitarian aid to the area, and also passengers.

He noted that the airfield had been used for military and civilian aviation.

Silo said the airport needs repairing, without elaborating whether the United States will use the airfield as a base for its forces, who have been either airdropped or crossed from Iraq to aid the Kurds in their push against the IS strongholds on the basis of a new Pentagon plan against the terror group.

The SDF entered the airport earlier in the day and got engaged in intense battles with the IS in and around the facility.

Silo said the achievement comes with the help of only the US-led anti-terror coalition, the main backer to the Kurdish groups in northern Syria.

The Syrian army did not join in the attack on Tabqa, he added.

The push by the US-backed SDF toward the city of Tabqa and the nearby areas is part of a major offensive against Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS.

The first stage of the attack is aimed at isolating Raqqa from Tabqa and other IS positions in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

Earlier in the day, Kurdish officials said the battle against Raqqa city will start early next month.

The Tabqa Air Base has a strategic value for the SDF, as it will enable the Kurdish-led group to tighten the noose on IS militants in the city of Tabqa from three directions.

There are also reports that the US-led coalition may plan to use the base to provide supplies for SDF units in the upcoming battle of Raqqa.

The Syrian army withdrew from the airbase in August 2014, the year IS declared its caliphate in Raqqa and took the city as its capital.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the over 90 civilians have been killed over the past week as a result of the airstrikes by the US-led anti-terror coalition on Tabqa city.

The UK-based watchdog group also said that 66 civilians have been killed in Raqqa city of the past five days.

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