BEIRUT

Middle East

Jihadists killed in new push to take Syria air base

A warplane operated by forces of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad carries out what activists said was an air raid around al-Tabqa military base at a government-controlled airport that is surrounded by militants, west of Raqqa city, August 21, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIRUT: At least 14 jihadists were killed and 150 wounded in overnight clashes with Syrian troops defending an air base in Raqqa province, an activist group said Saturday.

The clashes came as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria launched a new bid to capture the Tabqa base, the government's last bastion in the northern province, the rest of which is in the hands of the jihadists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack began overnight when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the base.

The two sides then exchanged rocket, artillery and heavy machine gun fire and the army deployed air strikes against the attacking jihadists, the Britain-based group said.

The air raids continued into the morning, with eight strikes against the town of Tabqa that killed 13 people, among them an additional 10 ISIS fighters.

Those deaths brought ISIS losses since it began its assault on Tabqa to at least 94, with more than 400 wounded, according to the Observatory.

ISIS has brought in reinforcements from other areas it controls in Syria, as well as neighbouring Iraq, the Observatory added.

The assault on Tabqa comes after ISIS seized the army's Brigade 93 and Division 17 posts in Raqa, killing dozens of soldiers, some whom it beheaded.

The army has airlifted reinforcements to the base and stepped up air strikes against ISIS positions across Raqa, using both precision rockets and barrel bombs.

 

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