As the Islamic State seizes Tabqa airbase in Syria, it kicks the Syrian government’s army out of the north east of the country and seizes a cache of advanced weapons.
Above: raising the flag at Tabqa airbase
The militant group, which has declared parts of Iraq and Syria as its caliphate, fought over the weekend for control of the base, and on Wednesday released images of the battle, prisoners, the dead and of the spoils of war.
Whilst much of the world attention has been on Iraq, where Islamic State has advanced through large parts of the north of the country, in Syria the group has made strong advances – including towards the Turkish border.
Above: Islamic State said these were “warplanes that the Alawite regime used to bomb Muslims. Spoils in the hands of maujahideen.”
Tabqa, near to the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, was seen as a key target and the large amounts of military equipment seized will no doubt strengthen the group in its advances in Syria and Iraq.
Hundreds of Islamic State fighters and regime soldiers are reported to have been killed in the clashes.
Images posted to Islamic State sites and on social media show prisoners from Assad’s army being executed and held as prisoners. Channel 4 News has translated the titles of the pictures (above and below).
Above: “Officers and soldiers from Alawite regime taken prisoner in the battle of Tabqa military airport.”
Above: “Prisoners from the Alawite regime.”
Pictures also claim to show heat-seeking missiles, anti-aircraft guns and vast stores of ammunition captured by the jihadi fighters.
A number of fighter jets can also be seen, though it is thought that all operational aircraft were removed from the base before Islamic State took control.
Above: “Tens of 57mm cannons. Islamic State spoils from Tabqa military airport.”
Respected weapons analysis blogger Eliot Higgins, on his bellingcat website, identified the jets as Mig-21s. He also identified R-3S air-to-air missiles which would have been used by the fighter planes, and AZP S-60 anti-aircraft guns. All the weapons and planes were Russian made.
Syrian state media reported there had been a “successful evacuation of the base”.
Above: “Couple of thermal missiles. Spoils for Islamic State.”
Above: “The warplanes’ missiles which were used to bomb Muslim homes.”
Above: “Ammunition depot gained by the mujahideen”