BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Islamic State suicide bomber detonated a tank at a Syrian air base in the province of Deir al-Zor, one of the last remaining government strongholds in eastern Syria, jihadist social media and a monitoring group said on Friday.
One Islamic State Twitter account published two photos of a smiling man it named Abu al-Farouq al-Libi, who it said carried out the “suicide operation”.
The al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State has been gradually consolidating control of the oil-producing Deir al-Zor region this year. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have held on to the local military air base and parts of the provincial capital.
On Dec. 6, militants entered the base but were swiftly repelled. Deir al-Zor borders territories in Iraq are also controlled by Islamic State. The province’s oilfields are a source of revenue for the group.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said the army had pursued Islamic State fighters in the area around Deir al-Zor base and killed many.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said The tank blew up on the outskirts of the base. It gave no details of casualties or other damage. After the blast, clashes took place on Friday morning, it added.
Islamic State has been under pressure from U.S. air strikes in Syria since September, but that has not stopped it from launching attacks on Assad’s forces and rival rebels.
Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Angus MacSwan