SYRIAN Kurdish militia suffered a major setback yesterday when Isis recaptured the Ja’bar castle west of its stronghold Raqqa.
The 11th-century castle on the north bank of Lake Assad on the Euphrates river was freed from Isis’s grip on Friday by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
They found the Wahhabi death cult had been using the medieval fort as a dungeon for captives.
But yesterday reports emerged that Isis had retaken the castle and nearby villages in a sudden counterattack.
The capture of the castle had put the SDF within three miles of the Tabqa dam, a major crossing of the Euphrates, which created Lake Assad and generates 800 megawatts of electricity.
SDF commander Ashraf Mustafa had earlier told the Hawar News Agency that capturing the dam would cut off Isis forces in Raqqa on the north bank from Tabqa on the south and its militants further west in Deir Hafir and al-Bab in Aleppo province.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air power and special operations “advisers,” almost liberated Tabqa in June in a lightning offensive launched from Ithriyah to the west.
Meanwhile to the north, the other main prong of the SDF offensive continued to advance, reportedly capturing the villages of Jib al-Shair and Sfayan, south of Ayn Issa.
The SDF also claimed to have taken part in a US commando raid south-east of Raqqa on Sunday that targeted an Isis leader they identified as “economy minister” Abo Inas.
Russian chief-of-staff Valery Gerasimov said yesterday the US air force killed 20 civilians last Tuesday in a raid by a B-52 bomber in northwestern Idlib province. The US Defence Department said they were al-Qaida terrorists.
General Gerasimov said the US-led bombing coalition had failed to achieve “any meaningful results,” while “significant numbers of victims among the civilian population and government forces were reported.”
He cited September’s hourlong coalition air raid on a key army position outside the Isisbesieged city of Deir Ezzor, which had allowed the Salafists to capture a mountain overlooking the lifeline airport.
On Sunday US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter claimed that Russia had given “virtually zero” support to the halfhearted US campaign against Isis but had “doubled down [doubled its bet] on the Syrian civil war.”
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