Jihadists storm Syrian army base in Raqqa

Photo: Jihadists storm Syrian army base in Raqqa
 / Arab World

Jihadists from the Islamic State group have seized parts of a military base in Syria's Raqa province after launching triple suicide bomb attacks at its gates, an activist said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the extremist group was engaged in heavy fighting with troops at Brigade 93 in Raqqa, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) already controls the regional capital and significant amounts of territory, AFP reported.

The fighting began Wednesday night, after three ISIS fighters blew themselves up at the entrance of the base and around it.

The initial explosions killed and wounded "dozens" of regime troops, the Observatory said, with director Rami Abdel Rahman saying there was no confirmed death toll yet.

The group said IS fighters "were in control of large parts of the base".

Many regime troops had withdrawn to Brigade 93 last month, after ISIS seized the Division 17 base, killing at least 85 soldiers, according to the Observatory.

That assault left nearly all of Raqqa province under ISIS control, except Brigade 93 and Tabaqa military airport, which were still held by the army.

The two-day assault on Division 17 saw more than 50 troops summarily executed, including some who were beheaded, with jihadists later putting their severed heads on display.

ISIS, which first emerged in Syria's war in spring 2013, has since imposed near-total control in Raqqa province and Deir al-Zor on the Iraq border.

In June, the group proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

Some Western-backed rebels seeking President Bashar Assad's ouster initially welcomed ISIS as a potential ally.

But the extremist group's abuses and quest for domination has turned the opposition against it.

Syria's war has killed more than 170,000 people since March 2011.

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