Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The death toll from the last two days of intense fighting between the government army and militias of the Islamic state (IS) now stands at 500. The battle came to an end yesterday with the extremists conquest of an important base air in the north-east of Syria. According to reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in Britain, more than 346 militants Islamists and over 170 members of government security forces have been killed. The battle, one of the bloodiest since the conflict began in 2011 against President Bashar al Assad, was over Taqba Air Force Base, the last stronghold loyal to Damascus in the province of Raqqa now in the hands of the Islamic state which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq.
In the nearby town of Raqqa, shots of gunfire and chants from the loudspeakers of the mosques hailed the Islamists victory (see photo); on several occasions the Islamist leaders launched the cry "Allah Akbar" (God is great -ed) to celebrate the victory. Local sources said that the jihadists have put the severed heads of Syrian army soldiers on display in the city's main square.
Damascus air raids on the area have proven ineffective. In the early hours of yesterday morning they bombed the area around the base which failed to repel the attack and prevent the structure from falling into the hands of the Islamists.
Syrian state TV reports that now the government security forces are "reorganizing". Military sources report that the base "has been evacuated," before being taken by the jihadists and the army resumed its bombardment of "terrorist groups" that have already suffered heavy losses.
In recent weeks, the militias of the Islamic State have taken three military bases from the government. In the three years of war in Syria, at least 191 thousand people have been killed. What began as a revolt to oust the Syrian president has turned into a bloody conflict with the growing success of the Islamist movement, which once belonged to the galaxy of al Qaeda. The United States has launched air strikes against militants in Iraq, but not in neighboring Syria, where Washington has long supported the rebel groups - including the current IS - which sought to overthrow Assad.