A pro-regime gunman holds a position at a military airport held by Syrian troops and pro-regime militias in the northeastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Dec. 12, 2014. AFP/Thaer al-Ajlani
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Militants linked to Al-Qaeda dealt a major blow to Syria's regime Monday by seizing two key army bases within hours, giving them control over most of Idlib province.The gains also signaled another defeat for Western-backed rebels who were driven out of most of the northwestern province last month by the jihadi Nusra Front.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Nusra -- the battered country's Al-Qaeda branch -- seized Hamidieh and Wadi Deif, the regime's largest outposts in Idlib.Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said Nusra had used tanks and heavy weapons captured last month from the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front.Within hours of taking Wadi Deif, Nusra and the two other Islamist rebel groups also seized Hamidieh, the Observatory said.After Nusra and its allies moved in, regime warplanes launched 17 air raids against the base, the Britain-based group said.
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