Jabhat al-Nusra takes two Syrian bases in major blow to regime

AFP reports: Militants linked to Al-Qaeda dealt a major blow to Syria’s regime on Monday by seizing two key army bases within hours, giving them control over most of Idlib province.

The gains also signalled another defeat for Western-backed rebels who were driven out of most of the northwestern province last month by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Nusra Front — the battered country’s Al-Qaeda branch — seized Hamidiyeh and Wadi al-Deif, the regime’s largest outposts in Idlib.

The jihadists advanced in coordination with Islamist rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, the Observatory said, adding that a string of villages in the area also fell.

Al-Nusra Front claimed via Twitter it was “the only faction that took part in the liberation of Wadi al-Deif”, and that it was now “chasing down” soldiers.

State television cited a military source as implicitly acknowledging the loss. [Continue reading…]

Reuters adds: Around 100 Syrian soldiers and 80 Islamist fighters were killed during a two-day battle in which insurgents captured the Wadi al-Deif military base, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Tuesday.

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