Mili­tias seize town ahead of at­tack on IS base

New Straits Times - - World -

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

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