Tuesday, December 11, 2012
BEIRUT — Syrian rebels backed by Islamic extremist fighters took full control of a sprawling military base today after a two-day battle that killed at least 35 government troops, an activist group said.
It was the second major base captured in the country’s north by the rebels, who have been racking up victories in the area in recent weeks and making inroads farther south toward Damascus, seat of the government they are fighting to overthrow.
Fighters from jihadi groups including the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra were among those doing battle in the rebel ranks, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria.
The presence of the jihadi groups has raised concerns in the U.S. and other nations that are supporting the opposition in Syria but do not want to see extremists gain power in the region. The U.S. this week blacklisted al-Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization and said the group was part of al-Qaida in Iraq.