Militias seize town ahead of attack on IS base
BEIRUT: Syrian militias, backed by the United States, said they have seized the town of Tabqa and Syria’s largest dam from Islamic State on Wednesday, a major objective as they prepare to launch an assault on Raqqa, the jihadists’ biggest urban stronghold.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, had been battling the militants for weeks in Tabqa, 40km west of Raqqa, along the Euphrates River.
With airstrikes and special forces from the US-led coalition, SDF is advancing on Raqqa to ultimately take the city, which is also the Islamic State’s base of operations in the country.
They captured Tabqa, “thanks to the sacrifices of SDF’s heroes and with the full, unlimited support of the US-led international coalition”, said SDF spokesman Talal Silo.
SDF pushed into Tabqa two weeks ago, capturing most of its districts and encircling IS at the dam.
The battle for Tabqa began after US forces helped SDF fighters conduct an airborne landing on the southern bank of the Euphrates in March, allowing them to gain control of an important nearby airbase.
Despite fierce objections from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, the US this week approved the supplying of arms to the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, a key component of SDF and their campaign.
Ankara strongly opposes US support of the YPG, viewing it as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which waged a three-decade insurgency within Turkey.
Meanwhile, Austria jailed a Syrian migrant for life for executing 20 wounded government soldiers in his home country.
The man initially admitted to the 2013-2014 killings in the western region of Homs.
The court in Innsbruck announced its ruling on Wednesday after a jury found the 27-year-old guilty of 20 charges of “murder as a terror offence”.
The man, who denied the charges, was detained in a refugee shelter in Tyrol state last June after being denounced by a fellow Syrian. Agencies