McClatchy reports: Syrian rebels spearheaded by al Qaida in Iraq and its local allies took control Tuesday of a crucial military airport in northern Syria, opening a vital supply line between the rebel-held north and Turkey.
The end of the siege that had clamped down the airport since last October began Monday, when two non-Syrian nationals drove an armored personnel carrier, loaded with explosives, into a position manned by defenders of the regime of President Bashar Assad. The explosion devastated the Assad troops and allowed rebels to overrun the Mannagh Air Base in Idlib province.
Those rebels included multiple units affiliated with the Syrian Military Council, an umbrella group with U.S. backing. That poses an uncomfortable pairing of a group supported by U.S. resources with Islamist organizations Washington has labeled as terrorist.
The Syrian Opposition Coalition, the political component of the SMC, announced that the airbase had been “liberated’ by a mixture of nine rebel groups. They included the al Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS, and its Syrian sister organization, the Nusra Front.
Taking the airbase was critical because the facility had been used by Assad’s forces to target rebel supply lines and positions with artillery and air strikes. [Continue reading…]