BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic insurgents overran a military base at a former factory in northwestern Syria on Monday, carting off tanks and other weapons in the latest blow to President Bashar Assad's forces in the region, activists said.
The opposition offensive in Idlib province has captured the provincial capital, a strategic town as well as villages and military bases since it began last month. An array of anti-Assad armed factions from across the ideological spectrum has demonstrated a degree of sustained coordination previously unseen in northern Syria, contributing to the campaign's success.
After hours of heavy fighting on Monday, the opposition fighters seized control of the base at the former factory, known as Qarmeed, northwest of the town of Ariha, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Jisr al-Shughour activist coordinating committee's Facebook page said.
The Observatory said the insurgents captured seven tanks, armored vehicles, heavy machine guns and ammunition. The Local Coordination Committees activist collective said the fighters now had turned their guns on the nearby Mastoumeh military base.
Both groups said government aircraft carried out more than a dozen airstrikes on the Qarmeed base after its fall.
Photographs posted on the Twitter feed of one of the groups involved in the battle, the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, showed fighters carting off green crates of what appeared to be ammunition. The account also carried photos of a tank and heavy artillery that it said were the "spoils" of the battle.
The photographs could not be immediately verified, but they appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting.
The fall of the base is the latest in a string of defeats for Assad's forces in Idlib. Government troops already have been pushed out of the city of Idlib, the provincial capital, as well as the town of Jisr al-Shughour.
Syria's SANA state news agency said Monday the military is waging "fierce battles" around the brick factory, and has killed and wounded a "large number of terrorists." The government refers to those trying to topple Assad as "terrorists."