ISIS captures major air base in Syria

This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on Monday, June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during a parade with a missile in Raqqa, Syria. AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center

Last Updated Aug 24, 2014 2:30 PM EDT

BEIRUT - Activists say Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters have captured a major military air base in northeastern Syria, eliminating the last government-held outpost in an area dominated by the extremist group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the jihadis broke through the Tabqa air field's defenses Sunday and routed the government forces.

Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman says some army troops also withdrew from the base, and the Islamic State group is now in full control of the facility.

The SANA state news agency confirmed that the government had lost the air base, saying troops "are successfully reassembling after evacuating the airport."

ISIS' fight to establish its self-proclaimed goal of an Islamic caliphate is spreading over a massive amount of territory straddling Iraq and Syria.

It has also drawn the U.S. back into Iraq, where the U.S. military has carried out several airstrikes in support of Iraqi military forces battling the extremists. On Sunday, the Pentagon said in a statement it carried out two airstrikes in the vicinity of Erbil and Mosul Dam.

"One strike destroyed an (ISIS) humvee near the Mosul Dam and the other strike destroyed an (ISIS) armed vehicle near Erbil," the statement read. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.

On Saturday, explosions rocked the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk Saturday, killing more than 30 people and injuring dozens.

The bombing appears to be targeting Kurdish forces, which have struggling to contain the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and prevent militants from taking more territory.

Thousands of Kurdish fighters are deployed in the north, but they're still no match for the well-armed and well-financed ISIS.

"We need weapons to make the battle equal," one Kurdish fighter said.

Even as the U.S. considers expanding its military operation against ISIS in Iraq and into Syria, the airstrikes against the terrorist group have not addressed Iraq's larger problem: escalating sectarian violence.

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