IS continues attacks on Tabaqa airport in Raqqa

The Islamic State launched another attack against the strategic Tabaqa Military Airport, but failed to create a breach.

al-monitor Residents point to warplanes during what activists said was an air raid around Tabaqa military base, west of Raqqa city, Aug. 21, 2014. Photo by REUTERS.

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syrian army, syria, islamic state

Aug 22, 2014

The second attack launched by the Islamic State (IS) against the Tabaqa Military Airport in Raqqa countryside was a major failure and great embarrassment, less than 48 hours after the failure of the first attack. Despite the risks surrounding the airport in light of IS’ insistence to storm it, the airport's ability to withstand is strong, as the two recent attacks were countered due to recent reinforcements and fortifications.

The second attack was launched about 10 p.m. Aug. 20, with two suicide attacks targeting the main entrance of the airport. There were conflicting reports about the name of the first suicide bomber. While some media outlets indicated that his name was Abu Hajer al-Shami, media sources close to IS confirmed that his name is Abu Abdullah al-Jazrawi. The second bomber is Abu Islam al-Jazrawi whose real name is Mohammed Majid al-Saheem.

According to the usual scenario, the bombings aimed at creating a hole in the airport’s enclosure to allow the infiltration of a troop that will act as the main attacking force composed of about 200 extremists, half Syrians and half foreign fighters. This troop’s mission was to transfer clashes inside the airport to sow chaos within the ranks of the Syrian army soldiers and mislead them to believe that the airport has fallen in their hands.

But what happened is that the two suicide attacks failed as the guards of the airport managed to blow up the first booby-trapped vehicle at a relatively long distance from the airport, while the second vehicle failed to cause any damage, despite the fact that it exploded near the airport entrance. When the extremists rushed to infiltrate the airport under the cover of the second bombing, they soon realized they had been ambushed and targeted by mines and improvised explosive devices that led to the death of some of them, while others withdrew without fulfilling their mission.

A field source well informed on the battles’ developments told As-Safir, “The recent attack on Tabaqa airport was substantial, included three axes, and was launched under the cover of two suicide attacks.” The source indicated that “the attack failed due to the ingenuity shown by the guards of the airport and the important role played by the military air force who bombed the terrorists’ sites and their points of gathering before heading toward the airport.”

The source said, “Storming Tabaqa airport is not easy due to its fortifications and the reinforcements sent during the past period.” The source also explained that the airport is surrounded by a safety belt extending for several kilometers. Although Syrian army members are not deployed there, this area is under the control of the Syrian army artillery and air force, which makes any attack very costly given the exposure of the areas falling within the safety zone.

Some experts confirmed that the safety distance stretches over about 10 kilometers [6 miles] in the vicinity of the airport. Ilyushin cargo aircraft still land at Tabaqa airport and were never been targeted, as safety is guaranteed upon landing, which practically requires a distance of at least 10 kilometers.

Newspapers close to IS announced yesterday [Aug. 21] at dawn that Tababa airport has fallen under IS’ control. The organization initiated combing and cleansing operations before the official announcement of the news via authorized Internet accounts. Yet, it appeared that this was not true and that the airport was still under Syrian army control. This caused IS leadership great embarrassment and, therefore, it instructed some of its reporters to deny the news while asserting that clashes are ongoing. According to the available data, the second attack caused the deaths of around 20 to 30 IS fighters, most of them killed by artillery shelling and air force raids.

Abu Sarah al-Ansari, a field leader of one of the attack axes and a former detainee at Sednaya prison, was among the most prominent IS members who were killed. The latter used to be the emir of IS in Tabaqa, but was disqualified a few weeks ago. Moreover, Abu Muthanna the Belgian and Abu Seif the British were killed in the first attack.

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