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At least 70 ISIS militants killed in Syria clashes

The Observatory says at least 70 ISIS militants are killed in 48 hours of clashes with Syrian army troops in the northern province of Raqa

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At least 70 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants have been killed in 48 hours of clashes with Syrian army troops in the northern province of Raqa, Agence France-Presse reported a monitoring group as saying Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had launched a major push late Tuesday on Tabqa military airport, the last remaining army stronghold in Raqa, which has been largely overrun by the jihadists.

The assailants had carried out car bomb attacks in their assault but failed to make any breakthrough, the Britain-based group said.

“At least 70 IS fighters have been lost since early Wednesday in regime air raids, Scud missile blasts and mine explosions,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

He said the military was also using barrel bombs to attack ISIS from the air, the same improvised and crude weaponry it has deployed against rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo with deadly impact.

Syria reinforces air base

Syrian government forces have sent reinforcements to an air base being attacked by ISIS militants in northeast Syria.

The airbase at Tabqa, some 40 kilometers east of the city of Raqqa in northeast Syria, represents the government’s last foothold in an area otherwise controlled by the ISIS group that has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

Also, see: U.S. military officials say Syria key to defeat ISIS

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says it gathers material from all sides in the Syrian conflict, said the reinforcements had been flown in overnight into Friday.

It said no fewer than 30 Islamic State fighters had been killed and dozens more wounded on Thursday by heavy bombardment and landmines in areas surrounding the base.

The city of Raqqa on the Euphrates river represents the ISIS stronghold in Syria. Boosted by weaponry seized in Iraq, the group has taken three Syrian military bases in the area in recent weeks.

The Syrian state news agency SANA on Thursday denied reports that Islamic State fighters had entered the air base. It also said government forces had taken a nearby village.

Islamic State, which has been hit by U.S. air strikes in Iraq, controls roughly a third of northern and eastern Syria.

(With AFP and Reuters)