Backed Forces Storm IS-Held Airport Near Euphrates Dam

Fierce fighting between so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadists and the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at the Tabqa Dam has put it out of service.

SDF spokesperson Talal Silo said its fighters had seized "60 to 70 percent" of the airport but were still engaged in clashes with the militants inside the air base and on its outskirts.

The coalition fighting the militants could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said SDF fighters are marching toward the buildings of the Tishrin Dam carefully because of mines and explosives planted by IS.

It would include local tribal sheikhs and people now living in the city who would be identified when it was safe to do so.The establishment of a local government allied to the SDF in Raqqa would expand the sphere of Kurdish influence in northern Syria, mirroring governing arrangements put in place in the city of Manbij after its capture by the SDF past year.

The SDF said that the capture of Al-Tabqa Airport and its surrounding village serves as a vital role in the third phase of its military offensive to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State.

"The dam has a spillway to get rid of excess water but it can not discharge all of it", Suwaid said.

Operations are now focused on the strategically important town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, and the adjacent dam and military airport.

A MoD spokesman said: "We have always been clear that this is a fight that will take time and patience".

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US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces captured a strategically important air base from ISIL in north Syria on Sunday in the first major victory for the group since the United States airlifted the forces behind enemy lines four days ago. The militants claim that the US-led coalition's airstrikes had weakened the dam.

The UN warned this year of flooding in Syria from the dam, which is at risk from high water levels, deliberate sabotage by IS and further damage from air strikes.

IS has held the military airport since August 2014, and it carried out one of its worst mass killings there, of some 200 government soldiers.

Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the US -led military coalition that is fighting IS in Syria and Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that the Tabqa operation was large and likely would last for weeks.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said it is "increasingly concerned" about civilian casualties in the campaign against the extremist group.

The latest round of UN-backed Syria peace talks entered a second day in Geneva on Friday but there was little hope of a breakthrough in negotiations that have yielded little in previous rounds.

The Coalition said it had no reports of civilians being hit but would investigate, said Associated Press.

Washington has been backing the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic, but predominantly Kurdish alliance of forces.

  • Adam Floyd