LATEST: American Journalist Curtis Freed After 22 Months

UPDATE 1440 GMT: Islamic State fighters have captured Tabqa Airbase, the last major regime position of the Syrian military in Raqqa Province in northern Syria.

State news agency SANA, citing a “military source”, said Syrian forces were “regrouping after the successful evacuation of the airport” while still inflicting heavy losses on the jihadists through precision airstrikes.

A Chechen site supporting the Islamic State has been posting photographs of the claimed victory:

Claimed footage of celebrations in the town of Taqba, held by the Islamic State, upon news of the jihadist occupation of the base:

On Saturday State TV and websites were proclaiming that the military had routed the Islamic State as it held the airbase, killing “tens of terrorists”.

While details of today’s capture are limited, reports indicate the Syrian military’s resistance suddenly collapsed in the southern part of the complex, opening the way to the Islamic State to overrun the base after a week-long attack.

The loss of Tabqa, following the capture by the jihadists of other military bases in the north, threatens the Assad regime’s positions in Deir Ez Zor and Hasakeh Province in eastern Syria, where the Islamic State has also been advancing.

Slowly and carefully Syrian State media is beginning to acknowledge the escalating war with the jihadists of the Islamic State.

State news agency SANA headlines “a fresh massacre” by the Islamic State in Gharanij village in Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria: “terrorists from ISIS have killed four civilians from the village and mutilated their bodies, cutting off their heads at the village’s square”, as well as abducting a tribal chief.

SANA also posts — but does not feature on its homepage — a story about the Islamic State’s continuing assault on Tabqa Airbase, the last major regime position in Raqqa Province in northern Syria:

Mercenary terrorists from the terrorist organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are having their hopes of taking over al-Tabqa military airport in Raqqa ruthlessly quashed at the hands of the Syrian Arab Army.

Tens of dead bodies of those terrorists are lying on the ground all along the area surrounding the strategic airport in the northern province.

Despite media incitement put up in support of ISIS terrorists in their attack against the airport and the scale of weapons which they employed in their attacks over the past days, the terrorists could not hold their ground as they have been faced with “the unshakable bravery and strength” of the armed forces, according to a field commander.

State TV did broadcast a package this weekend, showing regime forces still in control of the complex:

Al Manar TV, the outlet of regime ally Hezbollah, does post an article claiming “Third ISIL Attempt to Seize Tabaqa Airport Fails“; however, its only information is the unverified claims of a British-based “monitoring group”.

Pro-regime Al Mayadeen TV features a similar article.

An opposition outlet, Shaam News Network, offers more information about the regime’s attempt to hold the base through airstrikes. It writes of attacks on the town of Tabqa, held by the Islamic State. One strike on the main hospital killed a number of people, including a child and Dr Saleh Al-Hussein.


American Journalist Curtis Freed After 22 Months

Journalist Peter Theo Curtis has been freed, almost two years after he was kidnapped on his way to work in Syria.

Curtis was handed over to UN representatives, after Qatari mediation helped lead to his release.

The journalist was reportedly abducted in Antakya, Turkey, as he planned to enter Syria in October 2012. It is unclear which group was holding him and whether any ransom was paid for his release.

Videos: Insurgents Fighting Regime in Suburbs of Hama

Insurgents continue to close on Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, attacking Syrian forces in the suburb of Qomhana just to the north:

Opposition fighters have been closing on Hama and the nearby military airport — limiting the use of one of the regime’s most important complexes for bomb production and transport of troops — since last month.

Trying to check the insurgents, Syrian forces bombed Halfaya, to the west of Qomhana:

Video: Syrian Military Occupies Pharmaceutical Factory in East Ghouta Area

State media’s report on the occupation of a destroyed pharmaceutical factory in the East Ghouta Area near Damascus:

Video Released of 7 Lebanon Soldiers Kidnapped by Islamic State

The Lebanese channel LBCI has released footage of seven Lebanese soldiers abducted by the Islamic State last month.

The troops were seized when the jihadists moved into the border town of Arsal and taken back across the frontier into Syria.

After several days of fighting, killing scores of Lebanese troops, jihadists, and civilians, the Islamic State withdrew from Arsal but held onto the captives.