Islamic State fighters captured a major military air base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, eliminating the last government-held outpost in a province dominated by the extremist group, activists and state media said.
The jihadis launched their long-anticipated offensive last week to seize the sprawling Tabqa air field, located some 45 kilometers (25 miles) from the extremists' stronghold in the city of Raqqa. The air base was one of the most significant government military facilities in the area, containing several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition.
After several failed efforts to breach the facility's walls in recent days, Islamic State fighters managed to punch through and storm the air field Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Despite government airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, the jihadis quickly quashed the remaining pockets of resistance, killing dozens of soldiers.
"Some of the Syrian regime troops pulled out, and now the Islamic State is in full control of Tabqa," said Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman. "This makes Raqqa province the first to fully fall out of government hands."