Extremists in Retreat

Extremists in RetreatExtremists in Retreat

Kurdish-led forces said they have captured a key military base from Islamic State in Syria’s Raqqa city. The militant group had held the base since capturing it from Syrian military last September.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that with US-led air support and smaller Syrian groups, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) took total control of the Liwa (Brigade) 93 Base.

“IS lines of defense were pushed back to the gates of Raqqa,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory said. “This means the IS keeps collapsing inside its own stronghold.”

The military base lies just 7 km of Ain Issa, a town 50 km north of the IS de facto capital Raqqa from where the insurgents have proclaimed a caliphate to rule over territories they have seized in Syria and Iraq, DW reported.

Following the Kurds’ defeat of IS militants in the border town of Kobane in January, the YPG has rapidly advanced into Raqqa, defying expectations of a drawn-out battle against IS extremists.

According to observatory sources, thousands of people had fled from Ain Issa towards Raqqa city in the last two days.

 Fear for Historical Site

Beyond the Kurdish front in northern Syria, however, there has been little good news for the global campaign against IS, with the militants also making major advances in May in both western Iraq and central Syria.

Late on Sunday, the observatory reported the IS had planted landmines and explosives, possibly to destroy ancient structures in the Syrian city of Palmyra.

The move has raised fears after the IS destroyed several priceless sculptures and a museum housing treasures of the Babylonian Empire in Iraq’s Hatra earlier this year.

Rahman said it is not known if the purpose is to blow up the ruins or to prevent the Syrian government forces from advancing into the town.

 Afghan Gains Against Taliban

Afghan government forces regained control of a key district near the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, after Taliban militants had threatened to capture a provincial capital for the first time since being driven from power in 2001.

Tuesday’s victory came despite signs that the Taliban was stepping up its offensive in the broader war, six months after most foreign troops left the country.

A day earlier, a Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen launched a brazen attack on the Afghan Parliament in Kabul. All of the assailants were killed. One civilian also died and at least 30 people were wounded.

The violence in Kabul, Kunduz Province to the north and elsewhere has put Afghanistan’s security forces under more pressure than at any time since most NATO combat troops withdrew, and there appears to be no easy way out of the crisis.

Kunduz was also under heavy threat last summer and the city center held. In the traditional Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in the south, insurgents threatened the provincial capital a few years ago, but were beaten back.

 Security Concerns

A clearing up operation went underway in Kabul after the Taliban attack on the parliament. Authorities have launched an investigation on how a suicide bomber breached security to detonate a bomb close to the parliament building.

The explosion was captured on video as MPs were discussing business in the chamber.

Gunfire then crackled through the air as six gunmen located close to the building opened fire. All the MPs left the building safely. Several have criticized security agencies for not preventing the attack.

Police said the assailants were armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. The six were killed after a shootout lasting two hours.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement. “We have launched the attack on parliament as there was an important gathering to introduce the country’s defense minister.”

The attack at the heart of the symbolic seat of power by the Taliban has added to questions about the NATO-trained Afghan security forces’ ability to cope.