Jihan Sheikh Ahmed (C), the official spokesperson of the Raqqa campaign, talks during a conference, east of Raqqa city, Syria March 26, 2017. (REUTERS Photo)
DAMASCUS, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) entered the Tabqa airport west of the northern city of Raqqa on Sunday, following battles with the Islamic State (IS) group, the SDF spokesman told Xinhua.
The SDF entered the Tabqa airport in the city bearing the same name in the western countryside of Raqqa Province, the de facto capital of the IS.
Talal Silo, the SDF military spokesman, said the battles with the IS militants are taking place inside and around the airport, adding that the facility will be declared liberated from IS within hours.
Silo said the achievement comes with the help of only the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, the main backer to the Kurdish groups in northern Syria.
The Syrian army did not join in the attack on Tabqa, he added.
The push by the U.S.-backed SDF toward the city of Tabqa and the nearby areas is part of a major offensive against Raqqa.
The first stage of the attack is aimed at isolating Raqqa from Tabqa and other IS positions in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
Earlier in the day, Kurdish officials said the battle against Raqqa city will start early next month.
Meanwhile, Silo said the airport needs repairing, without elaborating whether the United States will use the airfield as a base for its forces, who have been either airdropped or crossed from Iraq to aid the Kurds in their push against the IS strongholds on the basis of a new Pentagon plan against the terror group.
The Tabqa Air Base has a strategic value for the SDF, as it will enable the Kurdish-led group to tighten the noose on IS militants in the city of Tabqa from three directions.
There are also reports that the U.S.-led coalition may plan to use the base to provide supplies for SDF units in the upcoming battle of Raqqa.
Silo said the Tabqa airport will be the first to be controlled by the SDF, noting that the airfield had been used for military and civilian aviation.
The Syrian army withdrew from the airbase in August 2014, the year IS declared its caliphate in Raqqa and took the city as its capital.