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Syria rebels ‘take control’ of IS-held airbase near Raqqa

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US-backed Syrian rebels say they have taken full control of a key airbase held by the Islamic State group (IS) near its stronghold, Raqqa.

Its capture is seen as a significant step in the fight to drive the jihadists out of the city, which has become their self-declared capital.

Talal Sello, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said they had seized Tabqa airport from militants.

The Kurdish-led fighters are continuing to advance towards the city itself.

However, civilian rights groups have expressed safety concerns for citizens still living in the area.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition airstrikes have killed at least 89 civilians over the past week.

The capture of the military airport is the first major success for the rebel alliance since the US-led coalition airlifted its fighters to place them behind IS lines last week, the BBC’s Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher reports.

The Tabqa airbase was seized by IS militants in 2014 from the Syrian army. The jihadists then carried out one of their worst atrocities – a mass execution of captured soldiers.

Its capture by rebels was part of an offensive aimed at also taking control of the Taqba dam – the largest in Syria – as well as Tabqa town.


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