US-backed forces capture Tabqa air base from ISIL in Syria

Published: 06:02 GMT, Mar 27, 2017 |

A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters have captured a strategic air base 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 air base, 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 air base was captured by ISIL fighters from the Syrian government in August 2014.