Syrian regime airbase in Idlib falls to Al Nusrah Front, allies

Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in the Levant, claims to have overrun the Abu Duhour airbase in the Idlib province of Syria.

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In a post on one of its official Twitter feeds, Al Nusrah said┬áthe airbase was “fully liberated” after more than 100 of Bashar al Assad’s fighters were killed and an additional 60 captured. The tweet from the jihadist group┬ácan be seen on the right. Other accounts on social media differ with respect to the number of regime fighters killed or captured. It is also unclear how many casualties Al Nusrah suffered in the battle.

SANA, the Syrian regime’s propaganda arm, has all but conceded that Assad’s forces lost the battle. SANA reports that the “guarding members evacuated their positions” at the airbase “after fierce battles with terrorist organizations where the guarding members showed great bravery and inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists for more than two years.”

The regime’s “news” arm blames “the dusty air,” which clouded the vision of Assad’s fighters, for their retreat. (Left unsaid is why the jihadists’ ground forces weren’t similarly disadvantaged.) Separate photos posted online purportedly show Assad’s men retreating into a sandstorm. SANA also alleges that the “Takfiri [extremist] terrorists” who overran the facility are “affiliated” with the “Erdogan [Turkey] and Saudi regimes.”

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Al Nusrah has released a short video and a series of pictures showing intense fighting in and around the base. Other unofficial videos and images streaming out of the airbase show a number of MIG fighter jets, helicopters and other arms in the jihadists’ possession. In one such video, fighters purportedly belonging to Al Nusrah are seen on top of a MIG. A screen shot from the video can be seen on the right. It is not known if any of the aircraft are operational.

Jihadists and other rebels have repeatedly assaulted the Abu Duhour airbase. Just last month, the Syrian regime claimed to have repelled an invasion jointly conducted by Al Nusrah and Jund al Aqsa, which is an al Qaeda front group. It is likely that Jund al Aqsa, which fights side-by-side with Al Nusrah in northern Syria, participated in the latest raid as well. Another al Qaeda-linked group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, has also taken part in the operation.

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

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    The loss of this base will put serious pressure on Syrian Arab Army units in the Aleppo theater. There is a real possibility those units could be enveloped if Nusra and/or ISIS pushes into the Khanasir Plain.

  • Curtis LeMay says:

    It will be interesting to see if nusra is able to get any of the airframes they captured into a serviceable state. The aircraft depicted in the photo is clearly a MiG-23. Given the large numbers of MiG23’s that had been in service, the region is awash with derelict examples that can be salvaged for parts. Since the Islamic State had previously been able to briefly bring a handful into operation, i wouldnt be surpised if al-Nusra was capable of doing so as well although the IS likely had access to many more derelict airframes than Nusra does, given that the IS had also siezed various airfields in Iraq.

  • KW64 says:

    One wonders if the anti-regime forces are making an extra push to take what they can before Russian reinforcements arrive in larger numbers.

  • Dennis says:

    Almost. …..hard to imagine an airbase, with all its power and ability to do what it’s enemy couldn’t dream of, falling after all this time. To an irregular force no less! !! Has history been rewritten? Why has the western European nations looked so unprepared for the human wave from the mideast and north africa? Did they not see this coming, ? Do they notice that most, at least 90%, of these” refugees” are all males around fighting age? Where are the women?

  • Winston says:

    US planned regime change back in 2006 according telegrams! These guys are foreign legion. Of curse more refugees to come. After all who wants to live under them? Not any same person.


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