Pro-Assad army deliberately handed over military base to Islamic State: activists

Militant Islamist fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. File photo

ARA News

Raqqa, Syria – Following intensive clashes with the Syrian regime members, al Qaeda splinter group of the Islamic State (IS) –previously known as ‘ISIL’– controlled the regime-linked army’s 17th Division in Raqqa province, northeast of Syria.

The two-day battles caused many casualties including civilians. At least 50 pro-Assad soldiers were killed.

According to IS-linked media sources, the group’s militants were able to fully control the military base on Friday evening.

However, the pro-regime media outlets reported: “Our soldiers withdrew from the 17th Division following the leadership orders to avoid casualties”.

The clashes started on Wednesday evening with a suicidal operation carried out inside the Syrian army’s 17th Division by a Saudi member of the Islamic State.

In a relevant context, Ahmad Sarmodi, an activist from Raqqa, told ARA News that the pro-regime air force carried out 14 air raids on the city of Raqqa on Thursday.

“Air raids targeted the 17th Division where IS counter-attacked using ground anti-aircrafts,” Sarmodi reported.

Meanwhile, IS militants imposed curfew on Friday dawn inside the city of Raqqa, celebrating their victory with heavy shooting and venerating God from mosques.

On the other hand, local sources in Raqqa told ARA News that a truck, belonging to IS group, was filled with corpses of pro-Assad army who were killed by IS militants during their operations against the 17th Division, while roaming the streets of Raqqa city.

The Syrian army’s 17th Division used to be the biggest regime stronghold in northeast of Syria with an area of 5 km square, comprising many troops and brigades in the provinces of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah.

Observers believe that the 17th Division’s operation is a transaction between the regime and the Islamic State group, expressing their surprise of the fall of such a greatly castellated stronghold.

According to eyewitnesses, Raqqa residents noticed heavy movement of vehicles out the squad and helicopters landing to transfer equipment and documents.

“The same scenario occurred in Menag airport in Idlib province,” Observers added. “Surrendering Division 17 is the commencement of dividing Syria and establishing an Arab Sunni State in Syria and Iraq.”

Speaking to ARA News, Dr. Hajar Shkaki, political analyst, said: “ISIL (IS) will soon surrender Raqqa to the regime. Soldiers who died are witnesses on the transaction between the regime officers and ISIL.”

“Regime officers lead ISIL’s operations. Hence, they handed Raqqa over to the Islamic State a year and a half ago,” Shkaki said.

Shkaki added that pro-Assad soldiers of Division 17 were not allowed to take vacations nor make calls, as they knew everything, “thus witnesses must die”.

Maysa Kholi, Syrian activist based in Turkey, told ARA News:”Controlling such a military stronghold needs days of operations where tens of videos are supposed to be published to realize what has happened.”

Raqqa city was suddenly held by Syrian opposition in March 2013 with no resistance from the side of the regime.

However, following intensive clashes with the opposition factions, militants of the Islamic State (IS) completely controlled Raqqa province in January 2014.


Reporting by: Redwan Bizar

Source: ARA News

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