Residents of Tabqa city tour the streets on motorcycles, carrying flags in celebration after Tabqa air base fell to Islamic State militants, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
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Islamic State fighters captured a major military air base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, eliminating the last government-held outpost in a province otherwise dominated by the jihadi group, activists and state media said.Tabqa airfield -- home to several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and ammunition bunkers -- is the third military base in the area to fall to the extremists since last month. Government warplanes carried out waves of airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, but those ultimately proved unable to stem the assault.Islamic State fighters had been closing in on the base for weeks.Last month, the extremists overran the sprawling Division 17 military base in Raqqa, killing at least 85 soldiers.In the neighboring province of Deir el-Zour, Islamic State fighters also have overwhelmed outposts held by Syrian rebels, systematically picking off towns and villages one by one through force and intimidation.In the central Syrian province of Homs, however, the Islamic State group reportedly was withdrawing its fighters after handing over its headquarters to the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, the Observatory said.
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