Syrian rebel fighters said Friday (January 11, 2013) they have captured a strategic northern military base used by the government to bomb opposition strongholds. Rebel fighters and militants from various Islamic groups, including the jihadist al-Nusra Front, took part in the offensive, an opposition spokesman said.
They've seized control of buildings, ammunition and military equipment at the base in Idlib province, the opposition said, signaling a major blow to President Bashar al-Assad's forces. "They are taking credit now for having taken the air base," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.
"And, as you know, we consider this significant on two fronts. "First of all, to ground some of the air assets of the Assad regime that they've been using against civilians. And, secondly, to break their ability to resupply in the north."
Pentagon weighs how to secure Syria's chemical weapons. The strategic base has been used by government forces to send explosives to areas in the north, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In addition to housing about government 400 soldiers, the group said, warplanes that attack the region were taking off from there.
"The Taftanaz air base has been completely liberated," said Hamza Abu Hussam, a spokesman for the Binnish Coordination Committee, a local opposition group. "I went down to see with my own eyes and was able to get in."
Opposition forces from various groups cheer and chant "God is great," purportedly after they took over the military airport.