DAMASCUS, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Activists said Friday that Islamist militia took full control over an airbase in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib after weeks of fighting.
Islamist militants mainly from the al-Nusra Front, an offshoot of al-Qaida, stormed the sprawling Taftanas airbase on Wednesday and fought pitch battles with government troops before claiming control over it on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly said.
The report could not be checked independently with the absence of official comments.
Earlier, reports said war jets evacuated pilots and engineers from the airbase before it fell in the hands of the radical militants, as the guarding troops remained on the ground to defend it.
Reports also said all war jets had been pulled out from the airport as the Syrian air force destroyed all radars in the base in addition to helicopters on the runway, leaving the rebels with depots of light ammunition only.
The sprawling facility is the most significant gain for the rebels as the Syrian troops have used it to launch airstrikes against rebel-held areas in the northern slice of Syria.