05:08, 27 January 2020
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US-backed forces 'capture' Tabqa airbase from ISIL

A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters has captured

a strategic airbase from ISIL in northern Syria in the first major victory for the group since the US airlifted the forces behind enemy lines last week. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Sunday that they captured the Tabqa airbase, 45km west of Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group's de facto capital in Syria. SDF forces were also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by ISIL, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged. Earlier this week, US forces airlifted SDF fighters behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault, and on Friday the alliance reached one of the dam's entrances. SDF forces were within 10km of Raqqa from the north, and aimed to effectively surround the city before launching an assault. Tabqa airbase was captured by ISIL fighters from the Syrian government in August 2014. Shortly afterwards, the group announced it had killed about 200 government soldiers at the base, in a mass killing recorded and distributed on video over social media. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported the SDF advance.