Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Rebels capture Syria's largest dam

A Free Syrian Army fighters patrols close to the front lines near a main highway in Aleppo (AP)

Syrian rebels have captured the country's largest dam after days of intense clashes, giving them control over water and electricity supplies for much of the country in a major blow to Bashar Assad's regime.

The rebels had already seized two other dams on the Euphrates River but the latest conquest, the al-Furat dam in north-eastern Raqqa province, was a major coup for the opposition. It handed them control over water and power for government-held areas and large swathes of land the opposition has captured over the past 22 months of fighting.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, a Britain-based activist with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said rebels took control of al-Furat dam around noon after pushing out a group of Assad loyalists from the control room.

Most of the regime troops in the area stopped fighting on Sunday after the fall of the nearby town of al-Thawra, Mr Abdul-Rahman said.

The rebel assault on the dam was led by al Qaida-linked militant group Jabhat al-Nusra. The government did not confirm it has lost control of the dam.

Earlier this month, the Observatory said rebels seized another smaller dam in Raqqa province, the Baath dam, named after Syria's ruling party. In November, Syrian opposition fighters captured Tishrin hydroelectric dam near the town of Manbij in northern Aleppo province, which borders Raqqa.

Members of al-Nusra, which the US has branded a terrorist organisation, have been among the most effective fighters in the battle to oust Assad. The group led battles for the other two dams, and was a decisive force in the opposition's successful attacks on regime army bases outside major cities, including the capital Damascus and Aleppo in the north.

Elsewhere, two separate car bombings in northern Syria killed 26 people. Both were blamed on al-Nusra.

One bomb exploded near a border crossing with Turkey in Idlib province. Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said 12 people were killed - nine Syrians and three Turks. He said 28 people were wounded, nine of them Turks. The vehicle that exploded had a Syrian licence plate, he added.

In the second car bombing, the Observatory said members of Jabhat al-Nusra blew themselves up in two car bombs outside an intelligence office in the city of Shadadah in the north-eastern province of Hasaka, killing at least 14 security agents.

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