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ISIS attacks last govt air base in Deir Ezzor

Assad says he vows to remain in power as the Syrian conflict will be long

Published: Updated:

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants launched an attack overnight against the last major Syrian military air base in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Associated Press reported activists as saying on Thursday.

The Local Coordination Committees activist collective and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights both reported the fighting for the airfield, which is just outside of the city of Deir Ezzor on the Euphrates River.

ISIS group already controls almost the entire surrounding province as part of its self-declared proto-state in Syria and Iraq.

The heavy clashes began with a suicide bombing on a Syrian military position near the air base, the Observatory said, adding that at least 19 government troops and seven ISIS militants have been killed in the fighting.

The Local Coordination Committees and the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, both reported heavy clashes and government shelling on the villages surrounding the airfield.

This summer, ISIS militants captured a series of Syrian government military bases outside the northeastern city of Raqqa, giving them full control of the entire province by the same name. The extremists killed hundreds of Syrian troops captured in those battles, shooting many in mass killings while beheading others and parading their bodies through ISIS-held towns and cities.

Assad: Syria war will be long

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published by a French magazine on Thursday, that the conflict in Syria will be long.

Assad told Paris Match that the Syrian army cannot be everywhere at once and that he vowed to remain in power, Reuters reported.

He said no one could predict when the war with insurgents seeking to oust him would end but said enemies had failed to win over the population, allowing the military to advance.

In extracts published on Wednesday, Assad also said U.S.-led air strikes in Syria since September were an “illegal intervention” that had made no difference in the fight against ISIS militants who are fighting government forces.

“The Syrian army cannot be everywhere at once. Where it is not present, terrorists take the opportunity to cross borders and infiltrate in one area or another,” said in the French language magazine in comments translated by Reuters.

“It is not about a war between two armies, where one occupies a territory and the other another one. It is another type of war. We are dealing with terrorist groups that infiltrate a town or village. So this war will be long and difficult.”

The text was also carried by Syrian state media on Thursday.

(With Associated Press and Reuters)