Islamist rebels say capture army base in Syria's Idlib province

Islamist rebels say capture army base in Syria's Idlib province

AMMAN - Reuters
Islamist rebels say capture army base in Syrias Idlib province

Rebel fighters inspect a site damaged by what activists said was shelling by warplanes loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Jisr al-Shughour town, after the rebels took control of the area, April 26, 2015. REUTERS Photo

A coalition of Islamist rebels said they seized a Syrian army base in northwestern Idlib province at dawn on April 27 after a suicide bomber from al Qaeda's Nusra Front drove a truck packed with explosives inside and set it off. 

Syrian state media said the army had inflicted heavy casualties on rebels in the area and launched air strikes, but did not say the base had fallen. 

The capture of Qarmeed camp, if confirmed, would be the latest in a series of setbacks for the army in the region. It would allow the rebels to tighten their siege on the major Mastouma army base nearby which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. 

"A truck with two tonnes of explosives penetrated one of the entrances of the camp that made it easier to take over the camp," Sheikh Husam Abu Bakr, a rebel commander from Ahrar al Sham said via Skype. 

Insurgents have been trying to push the army out of the few remaining government areas in the province, bringing them closer to Latakia, the ancestral home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

Hardline Sunni Islamist rebels seized Idlib city, the provincial capital, last month after forming an alliance that includes Nusra, the Ahrar al-Sham movement and Jund al-Aqsa, but not the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group which controls large tracts of Syria and Iraq. 

On April 25, the coalition captured the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour for the first time in the four-year-old conflict. 

The Islamist alliance calls itself the Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the 7th century.