Posted by Ekurd Daily on January 6, 2017.
BEIRUT,— Syria’s Kurdish-led forces in north of the country say they have taken control of a medieval castle perched on a hilltop over a strategic town held by the Islamic State group, less than 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the self-declared capital of the extremist group.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces gained control on Friday of Jaabar Castle, which dates back to the 11th century, following intense clashes with IS militants.
The castle sits on the bank of Assad Lake and overlooks the strategic Tabqa dam and town with the same name.
SDF spokesman Talal Sillo told The Associated Press that the castle, where some IS leaders had used to take cover, is in good condition.
Sillo says its capture brings the Kurdish forces to within 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) from the dam and Tabqa, the second most important town in the province, after the extremist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.
Tabqa Dam was constructed in the late 1960s with the help from the Soviet Union. It is believed to be Syria’s largest and has created the largest water reservoir in the country.
“We try to take control of the dam with the least possible damage, so we are not depending heavily on airstrikes,” said Sillo. The U.S.-led international coalition backs the SDF forces with airstrikes. Besides the dam, the town also houses a number of prisons. Sillo said there are intelligence reports that IS militants have begun transferring their captives from there to the city of Raqqa.
The U.S. regards the Kurdish YPG of Syrian Kurdistan as key ally against Islamic State and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with arms, air support as well as the military advisers. The Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from IS.
In 2013, Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.
Syrian Kurds on Dec. 30, 2016 have approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in Syrian Kurdistan, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.
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