Sunday, April 23, 2017

Islamic State fighters launch attack on Syrian UK special forces camp

(April 11) Islamic State(IS) fighters have launched a wave of suicide attacks on a U.K. special forces training base in Syria, the al-Tanf garrison near the Syrian-Iraq-Jordan border.

The IS first used a vehicle bomb to get in to the al-Tanf base used by U.S. special forces to train Syrian rebels. The vehicle attack was followed by a ground attack that involved at least thirty IS fighters. The attackers were driven back by coalition air strikes and help from Western troops. The IS fighters were also able to ambush a rebel group convoy that was trying to relieve the base. Eight IS fighters and four rebels were said to have died in the battle. The raid is one of the fiercest counter-attacks waged against coalition forces in the area.
The IS jihadists apparently avoided aerial detection as they were using vehicles they had captured from rebels in a previous battle. Al-Tanf has been a heavily-fortified training hub used by both U.S. and U.K. special forces to help train Syrian rebel groups. US troops were understood to be at the base at the time but it was not confirmed that U.K. troops were there although they use al-Tanf as a mobile base. The U.K. ministry of defense said it would not comment on special forces operations and refused to confirm that it had troops there. The presence of U.K. special forces at the base was revealed only as the result of a leak. Russia actually bombed the base in June last year and U.S. jets were scrambled but did not stop the raid. No injuries were reported.
U.S. and U.K. troops are thought to be expanding the base to use as a launch pad to oust militants from Abu Kamal, that IS uses as a major conduit for travel and supplies to and from Syria to Iraq. As noted in a recent Digital Journal article, the rebels have recently taken control of a large desert area in the vicinity helping to maintain security along the Syria-Jordan border. Some IS fighters are thought to have regrouped further north and will reinforce their stronghold Raqqa as it may soon come under attack.
The IS attack may be intended to show that the group is still in the area and are capable of waging hit-and-run operations such as this one. A rebel commander said:"Their message is we are still present in the area and have not withdrawn and we still target us.” Some U.S.-backed groups claims the U.S. have provided them only lukewarm support.
The rebel New Syrian Army tried to retake the town of Abu Kamal long ago in June of last year. However, the IS ambushed the fighters killing several and seizing much of their equipment. The group complained that the U.S. did not provide air cover. U.S. jets were withdrawn to fight in Fallujah.


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