Islamic State documents takeover of Syrian airbase


The Islamic State released photographs that document its recent takeover of the Syrian Air Force’s base in Tabqa in Raqqah province.

The photographs, which were published yesterday on the Internet, show the aftermath of the Islamic State’s latest conquest against the Syrian military. Islamic State fighters overran the Tabqa airbase last weekend. [See LWJ report, Islamic State fighters assault last Syrian stronghold in Raqqah.]

Tabqa was the last bastion for Syrian military forces in Raqqah province, which is now fully under the control of the Islamic State.

The photographs from Tabqa show what appear to be the bodies of dozens of Syrian soldiers who were killed during the fighting. The Islamic State also provides images of several Syrian soldiers, including at least one pilot, who were captured during the assault.

One photograph shows seven captured soldiers kneeling on the ground as Islamic State fighters shoot them from behind. The Islamic State has previously released similar photographs of Iraqi soldiers who were executed by the jihadist group.

Additionally, the Islamic State published photographs of various weapons systems and munitions that were captured or destroyed during the takeover of the airbase. At least three MiG fighters, as well as anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons systems, tanks, and anti-aircraft guns, were seized or destroyed by the Islamic State.

Photographs from Tabqa

Islamic State fighters stand on top of a tank as the bodies of dead Syrian soldiers lie in the foreground:


An Islamic State fighter brandishes a knife in front of a group of captured Syrian soldiers:


Islamic State fighters execute captured Syrian soldiers:


An abandoned Syrian Airforce MiG fighter:


Two abandoned Syrian Airforce MiG fighters in a shelter:


Missiles seized by the Islamic State at Tabqa:


Crates of munitions now under the control of the Islamic State:


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • James says:

    Oh, this is so convenient for you, Mr. Assad.
    Now, your problem has become our problem.

  • Alex says:

    Those MiGs look like they were past their prime long ago.

  • Kent Gatewood says:

    Why do people keep surrendering?

  • Tom says:

    Looks like three MiG, not 2 in the fifth picture as the fourth has blast doors open while the fifth has no blast doors.

  • Evan says:

    IS should enjoy these “victories,” whilst they still last…
    IF, that’s what you want to call capturing a bunch of poorly trained and equipped SA militia, a couple of crusty OLD MiGs with bird crap all over them, missiles that look like they’ve been collecting dust for 40 years, and a bunch of EMPTY ammo boxes…..
    I just read a report on LWJ, that says that the US spec ops community, is giving some props to IS. Says that they’re pretty slick, that they do things like fly drones over targets to gain aerial intelligence on them….
    IF, that’s what you want to call a toy remote control helicopter with a video camera duct taped to it….preeeety slick…
    More PROPAGANDA from IS…
    Also, are the blatant acts of brutality and barbarism that you “people,” carry out, meant to scare people? Or galvanize them?
    Are we not supposed to fight you now? Should we stop?
    NO, we will not stop.
    The greatest, most skilled, professional, best equipped, best trained, most disciplined, BAD ASS fighting force the world has ever known is coming for you….
    We are pining for you, aching for the chance to fight you head on…
    To show the world what you really are…

  • J Flood says:

    Why are there reports of soldiers continuing to surrender? Surely they have heard what happens when you surrender to IS? Is death by execution preferable to going down fighting?

  • Tom says:

    The US Military can’t defeat the leg mobile Taliban who they outnumber, outgun, and outspend and in their recent offensives the Taliban has retaken large swathes of Afghanistan.
    In Iraq the IS retook Tel Keppe from the Peshmerga and Youtube is replete with videos of Peshmerga/PKK/YPG fighters being taken prisoner by IS Fighters in the past week though many are being removed by Youtube as fast as they are spotted.
    It took two years and tens of thousands of US Troops with heavy air support to throw IS predecessor organization into the Iraqi Desert when they were just poor line infantry. Now they are no longer line infantry but a motorized force of light infantry who are prosecuting multiple fronts successfully despite everyone being against them.

  • Mike E says:

    Massive airstrikes and lots of boots on the ground are needed. That’s not likely in the era of “smart power” so look forward to ISIS being around for a long time.

  • ZUDO says:

    It is baffling why people surrender to IS. I believe that they lie to them and promise mercy. The desperate individuals often see hope in this. They are often betrayed. See the testimony of this Yazidi man on BBC I hope people see they have no interest in mercy and as easy as it is to say from the comfort of my armchair fighting to the second last bullet seems the preferred option with these thugs.

  • Andreas says:

    Tom, i disagree with you because in the former irak war, these as you call them “line infantry” hides between civilians and used i would say a classic hit and run tactic.
    The same in Afghanistan… AK47 on=terroris AK47 off =farmer
    IS now may believe they are strong enough to face the us army on the field and there is no doubt, they are not. These technicals they use are cannon fooder for an appache.
    and btw: sorry for my english, i’m from germany. I hope you understand me correct 🙂

  • Never Give Up! says:

    Like I said before, this stuff ain’t “paddy cake” over there and we are at war against the barbarians for civilization itself. The Obama Administration and his “can’t we all get along” crowd still haven’t gotten a clue.
    I’m no Asad fan but I find these mass executions in Iraq and Syria more disturbing than Mr Foley’s beheading. Really Barry? You look weak and bewildered like Bill did in Rawanda. You can’t find the will to send in ENOUGH SOF, JTACs, snake eaters along with ENOUGH airpower to help the Kurds, Iraq Gov or anybody? Even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is looking at you funny?
    Close your eyes folks as the clock winds backwards to the 8th century AD (ACE for you PCers) where beheadings, torture and genocide were common. Maybe we, the western world, will wake up and smell the coffee.
    I feel sorry for these men guy and their families. However, I would expect more beheadings and executions in the future.
    Again as stated before, If they’re going to kill you, they’re going to kill you. Never allow your captors the propaganda value of you grovelling in the dirt. Those men surrendered to the barbians and paid the ultimate price. Maybe they didn’t get the word from Iraq but everybody else has. Maybe Barry will too.
    Never give up, never surrender!

  • Evan says:

    Can’t defeat? What war are you watching? The operative word in that sentence being watching. What experience exactly, do you have fighting the Talibs? Or are you just expressing your opinion based on the “news” that you read?
    I’ve actually fought the Taliban, and the Haqqanis, and AQ, and every other jihadi group operating in eastern af/pak.
    And they aren’t just some poor line infantry either , in fact they aren’t infantry at all, mobile or otherwise.
    The problem is attitudes like yours, you think you’ve got it all figured, along with the rest of the 99 percent who don’t care enough to actually DO something about it, and instead are content to comment on things that they do not understand and malign the men and women that protect them.
    Let me relate to you an example, when I was fighting in Afghanistan, in the summer of 2005, I was involved in several large scale, at the time the biggest since Anaconda, combat operations to root out and destroy Ahmad Shah, who was a Taliban commander from Pesh, and his forces.
    In subsequent battles fought , in ops like red wings 2, whalers and others, we killed about 200 of them, to 5 of us.
    200 to 5. That’s not defeat? Ahmad Shah escaped to Pakistan, but was humiliated, and never returned to Afganistan to fight again. That’s not defeat?
    The US military doesn’t do anything BUT defeat these vermin.
    It’s the politicians that don’t have the spine to fight that have cost us so much and made my brothers’ sacrifices in vain.
    It’s the people who hate our country and hate our military, but yet live in our country and enjoy our freedoms and enjoy the protection of that same military that has cost us so much.
    It’s the people who ask, “we’re still fighting over there?” That could not care less, that have cost us so much.
    It’s the attitudes that the war is far away and doesn’t mean anything that has cost us so much.
    Now. I don’t know you personally, maybe you served, maybe you didn’t, it doesn’t matter. Before you get on here and say those things, step back, look around….
    Are you living in peace and comfort? Yes?
    Do you have food to eat? A bed to sleep in? Gas for your car?a job? A family?
    You have ALL of those things exactly because of the US military, men and women who have paid in blood so you can live free.
    Is that not defeating our enemies as well?

  • Mike says:

    No worries Obama is all over this with his recent ‘we dont have a strategy’ comment — or maybe ISIS is his strategy?

  • Manus says:

    The fact that these Syrians surrendered, knowing the consequences, plus the impotence exhibited by Assad’s military in allowing this narrative to occur, indicates to me that Syria is doomed to a slow death by IS.
    By the way, where is that Russian military support of Syria? Too busy in Ukraine, I suppose….

  • J M says:

    “US Military can’t defeat the Taliban?”
    Absolutely ludicrous. The reality is the US Military can defeat nearly any adversary it is called to face with relative ease. They are prevented from doing so by US public opinion, and to a lesser extent, world public opinion, and by politicians and a ruling class that twists and turns in the slightest breeze, and can’t see past the next election.

  • Tom says:

    First off, the politicians bent over backwards for you guys. You can’t blame them for your failure to win the war.
    Two, your service does not give you a pass to praise, such a concept is a spit in the face of Civilian Control of the Military and dangerous to Democratic Government the symptoms of which are being shown in Ferguson.
    Three, civilians are caught up in war and make the majority of causalities in war, so to claim you risk your life in combat is an empty phrase and a slap in the face to civilians.
    Four: You lost the war to the Taliban plain and simple, at the end of the day, the Taliban comes back and renders your tactical victories strategically irrelevant. Its not enough to beat an army tactically, you have to have a strategy to ensure tactical victories mean something.
    The US Military lacks a strategy and has forgotten what it means.
    The Taliban have a strategy that combines political, military, and economic plans together to achieve its goals and are willing to fight forever to achieve them which they are doing now.
    Saying they hide amongst civilians is no argument to excuse your failures to win and is a cop out to excuse excesses against civilians. Especially when you yourself place military forces in civilian areas that are legitimate targets to attack. So just quit with the hypocritical hiding behind civilians crap.
    You lost the war against the Taliban, admit it, learn from it, and do the necessary reforms to avoid repeating it or wind up losing to an even worse enemy.

  • blert says:

    Many of such surrenders occur when the individuals wake up in the morning — to find someone hovering over them.
    Beyond that, many military men have absolutely zero small arms training. This is especially true in any 3rd World air force.
    Topping off the lack of training, weapons, themselves, are often in short supply: the corrupt commanders often divert them for $$$ or for tribal buddies. So when these fellows run to the ammo locker — they find that it’s empty.
    Their uniforms are a wonderment, though. Not exactly desert cammo would you say?

  • WitchDoctor says:

    Kill them all before they kill us. It has come to that. We should have never allowed the second Iraq war.
    Was not necessary and look at the results now. Saddam kept a lid on those people.
    We went into Iraq so Dick Cheney and crew could destabilize the middle east and get rich off of oil options and futures. This whole thing rests on his barely beating heart.
    Now we have ISIS or whatever they want to be called and they are willing to die for their cause. I am ready to help and just re-upped for another four years. Al-Baghdadi we will have your head on a platter.

  • Ram says:

    Agree with Tom on this one.
    Evan, individual tactical successes in war mean nothing unless you can wipe the enemy out or force them into complete surrender. If they are repeatedly able to regroup and fight, its not a war you have won.
    Fact of the matter is, US military is designed to fight a war against ‘conventional’ enemy. Not really to fight an insurgency that uses guerilla tactics, and is least bothered about the loss of one or ten or hundred or even thousand of their brothers.
    Your hated politicians gave you practically a full decade in Afghanistan – but you could not bring them a decisive victory

  • blert says:

    Saddam wasn’t keeping a lid on anyone.
    He ran his own terrorist training camps — famously to include an airliner positioned so that jihadis could practice hyjacking!
    He had links to every manner of extremist. Most of these players fled right in front of the American campaign to liquidate Saddam.
    He was so ‘beloved’ that his entire army dropped their weapons rather than defend him.
    As for the rationale for the campaign: it’s been discussed in depth, elsewhere. The ultimate bottom line was that he had to go or the entire UN security council edifice would collapse like the League of Nations, circa 1933.
    Saddam was in GROSS violations of a slew of UNSC sanctions — and was paying off Russia, Canada, France and others — buying USSC votes, outright.
    The Canadian corruption shocked everyone. No-one saw that angle. It only came out after Volker’s complete audit. Saddam even bought Kofi’s son, too.
    It was Saddam, every step of the way, that compelled the campaign.
    However, we still have revisionists – such as, perhaps, yourself — still beating the blogs and airwaves with alternate histories.
    Tom is, de facto, an Iranian enthusiast. The mullahs can do no wrong as far as ‘Tom’ goes. He’s a pro, no doubt. You’ll find ‘Tom’ posting right through the day, blog after blog.
    Keep that in mind when reading his ‘reasoned’ positions.

  • Cerberus says:

    Tom, Evan,
    My own feeling on this, that the US Military ‘loses’ wars stems from the politicians, as Evan points out. The issue comes down to who is creating the strategy. In the first Iraq war with George Bush Sr., the decision to use the military and what the objective would be was made by the president and he then turned the military action over to the Military. The result of that war was clear and decisive. In the second Iraq war, George Bush Jr. made the decision to go to war with objective to destroy weapons of mass destruction. Bush then turned the mission over to the Secretary of Defense, a Political appointee. The Military’s initial requests for men and materiel (which in retrospect might have changed the entire course of the war) was rejected out of hand. That was pretty frustrating since the Military were the people who know how to conduct such a mission.
    My point then is that we do worst when our military forces are micromanaged by politician rather that the our Military experts.
    Lastly, the only way we could defeated the Taliban would be to invade Pakistan, where the lived and trained. Just like Vietnam where the politician would not allow a full scale invasion of North Vietnam.
    Although I am not in the Military, I believe the US Military to be the best in the world.


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