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SAS in daring dambuster raid: Special Forces lead operation to drive jihadists from vital dam and regain air base for assault on Raqqa

· The SAS secured a vital air base in Syria so Britain and allies can attack jihadists following brutal firefight

· A monumental hydroelectric dam that the terrorists have been threatening to destroy was also captured

· They began by parachuting into the desert before launching an assault on the Al Tabqa dam on March 21

· After 50 hours of firefight the SAS and the SDF (Syrian Democractic Forces) took control of the three mile dam

· On March 26 SAS troops, Syrian fighters and US air support captured the Tabqa airbase after seven hour battle

By Mark Nicol Defence

2 April 2017

The Special Air Service has launched a series of devastating aerial assaults behind Islamic State’s lines – claiming a decisive victory over the terrorist group and paving the way for a final battle to wipe out the jihadis in their stronghold.

The top-secret raids have secured a strategically vital air base in Syria from which Britain and its allies can attack the nearby city of Raqqa, where an army of terrorists are preparing to fight to the death.

A monumental hydroelectric dam that the terrorists have been threatening to destroy – potentially killing thousands of civilians – was also captured after a brutal firefight that went on for several hours as the SAS-led forces met heavy resistance.

The graphic above shows the four stages of how the Special Air Service launched a series of devastating aerial assaults behind Islamic State’s lines

The daring operation, believed to be the first airborne infantry operations against IS, began with British Special Forces parachuting from thousands of feet under cover of darkness on a reconnaissance mission deep in enemy territory.

The squad of elite SAS troops (whose exact number cannot be disclosed for national security reasons) jumped from a C-130 Hercules military aircraft and steered their parachutes towards a desert area west of Raqqa, where the Tabqa dam and Tabqa air base are located.

They watched the jihadists at close range for several hours using night-vision goggles and identified the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. This vital intelligence enabled the coalition against IS to finalise plans for the assaults days later on the two key strategic targets.

On March 21, SAS troops joined soldiers of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in an assault on the dam. Jihadists defending the northern perimeter of the three-mile dam were shot dead while other IS fighters retreated to the southern end.

As the battle raged, support came from US Marines who had crossed the Euphrates river in Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.

The fighting continued for several hours, with the jihadists determined to hold their ground until they were largely defeated.

Four days later, SAS and SDF troops were airlifted towards Tabqa air base, 25 miles from Raqqa.

The SAS and SDF landed just south of the base and launched a ground attack supported by Apache helicopter gunships which fired 30mm cannons and Hellfire missiles at enemy defensive positions identified by the SAS reconnaissance team.

The mission ended in complete victory, allowing the air base to be used as a launchpad for imminent operations against an estimated 4,000 jihadists in Raqqa.

The SAS is training hundreds of SDF fighters at secret locations. They will be thrust into action in the operation to remove IS from Raqqa, which the jihadists once declared was the capital of the Islamic caliphate, and where the murderer ‘Jihadi John’ was based. Specialist SAS soldiers, known as Forward Air Controllers, are being used to identify targets for coalition bombers and speak directly to pilots to ensure their munitions land in the right place.

IEDs were everywhere. The guys were fighting on treacherous terrain

This year there have been more than 300 air strikes around Tabqa and to the west of Raqqa.

According to US Central Command figures, hundreds of IS fighters have been killed, while more than 200 fortifications and 50 IS vehicles have been destroyed – but there have also been reports of civilian casualties as a result of US bombing.

An SAS source said: ‘The SAS jump was part of the “recce” phase before the raids on Tabqa dam, Tabqa air base and the capture of IS-occupied villages along the Euphrates river valley.

‘Once on the ground, the guys identified IS’s strong points and flagged up the proliferation of IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] which were everywhere, basically. The terrain underfoot was treacherous everywhere they went.

‘The SAS guys were armed with assault rifles and pistols and had top cover from a Predator drone providing heavy machine-gun fire or launching Hellfire missiles if required.

‘Military aircraft also dropped quad bikes, ammunition and heavy weapons which were used in the assaults. In particular, the recce team noted that the dam was particularly well defended by IS fighters.’

The daring operation was completed by a combination of SAS, SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, above shows a member near Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city last month) and US Marines

The daring operation was completed by a combination of SAS, SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, above shows a member near Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city last month) and US Marines

Following the raids on the dam and the air base, US military spokesmen heaped praise on the SDF, as part of a coalition strategy to enhance the reputation of local forces.

US Colonel Joseph Scrocca said: ‘It is the SDF on the ground putting their lives at risk and valiantly engaging the enemy. It is the SDF who are making the sacrifices so that other coalition nations do not continue to suffer the threat of IS terrorism inside their own borders.’

The top-secret role of the SAS and other international Special Forces troops was confirmed, however, by British and US sources, including a news website run by former American military personnel called Lima Charlie News.

While the Tabqa dam has been largely wrested from the terrorists, its far southern end remains in IS hands.

Although the threat has been minimized, there are still fears that in a desperate last effort to halt Western forces, the jihadists could destroy the dam, a move that would flood the river valley and cause thousands of deaths. IS may also have stockpiled poisons which it could use to contaminate the water supply.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on Special Forces.’

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