Date
14 December 2017
Tabqa dam is said to be close to collapse as a result of airstrikes and increased water levels. Photo: Reuters
Tabqa dam is said to be close to collapse as a result of airstrikes and increased water levels. Photo: Reuters

US-backed forces capture IS-held airport near key dam

A US-backed Syrian alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias has taken a military airport in northern Syria held by Islamic State, close to the country’s largest dam that may be in danger of collapse, Reuters reports.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led international coalition, said in a statement they had seized the air base.

Earlier, SDF spokesperson Talal Silo said its fighters had seized “60 to 70 percent” of the airport but were still engaged in intense clashes with the ultra-hardline militants inside the air base and on its outskirts.

The SDF, backed by US special forces in a campaign that has driven Islamic State from large swathes of northern Syria, fights separately from other rebel groups that seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

The SDF have been battling the militants near the Tabqa dam and air base west of the city of Raqqa in an accelerating campaign to capture Islamic State’s stronghold.

The Pentagon said last Wednesday it had for the first time airdropped local ground forces behind enemy lines near Tabqa in northern Syria in a move aimed at retaking the major dam.

Islamic State said on its social media channels that Tabqa dam had been put out of service and all flood gates were closed. It said the dam was at risk of collapse because of airstrikes and increased water levels.

Islamic State captured the Tabqa Dam, also known as the Euphrates Dam, which is about 40 km. (25 miles) upstream from Raqqa and the air base, at the height of its expansion in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

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