Syrian casualties surge amid rise in attacks by Islamic State
More than 2,000 Syrians — almost half of them pro-government forces — have been killed in just over two weeks of fighting in Syria, marking one of the worst death tolls in the country's three-year civil war, opposition activists said on Monday.
The reports reflect a recent surge in deadly attacks by the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group targeting President Bashar Assad's forces, signaling shifting priorities as Sunni militants seek to consolidate their hold on territory and resources in northern Syria.
Assad's forces have gained momentum in fighting with rebels seeking to topple him. Infighting also has hurt the rebel cause, with Islamic extremists battling more moderate fighters who have been greatly weakened by lack of weapons and by clashes with the militants.
But a series of recent setbacks for the Syrian government at the hands of the Islamic State group threatens to overturn government successes, pitting the Syrian army against a formidable force that now controls large chunks of territory in the country's north and neighboring Iraq.
“Now that they've mopped up rebel resistance to them in the east, the Islamic State can turn to the regime,” said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on militant factions in Syria and Iraq. “It may have been a benefit (to the Islamic State) to deal with rebels first, but the assault against the regime was inevitable.”
The recent attacks began after Assad was re-elected last month to a third, seven-year term in a vote that was confined to government-controlled areas and dismissed by the opposition and its Western allies. In his inauguration speech on July 16, he confidently declared victory and praised his supporters for “defeating the dirty war.”
Since then, fighters from the Islamic State have begun attacks against army positions in three provinces in northern and central Syria.
Militants last week overran the sprawling Division 17 military base in the northern Raqqa province, killing at least 85 soldiers inside. Amateur videos posted online by activists showed more than a dozen beheaded bodies in a busy square said to be in Raqqa. Some of the heads were placed on a nearby fence, where at least two headless bodies were crucified. The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.
On Sunday, the militants seized the army's Regiment 121 at Maylabieh in the northern Hassakeh province after a three-day battle.
Beyond Syria, the Islamic State fighters have seized large swaths of land in northern and western Iraq, and have declared a self-styled caliphate across territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border.
The group is engaged in heavy fighting against rival, mainstream Syrian rebels, and against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. In their push, the Islamic State fighters have captured much of Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Iraqi peshmerga troops join Kobani fight
- Beleaguered Burkina Faso leader steps down
- Smuggling dragnet snares Colombians visiting Venezuela
- Muslims get some access to mosque
- Mexican police questioned in slaying of 3 Americans
- Ukraine election cements pro-Western stance
- Iraq: Key town taken from Islamic State
- 23 sentenced to prison in Egypt for violating protest ban
- No direct combat for Iraqi Kurds in Kobani; ISIS loses ground in Iraq
- Dozens of girls recently abducted by Nigerian terrorists
- Coalition targets ideology of ISIS