UK special forces help hold anti-IS fort in Syria

UK special forces help hold anti-IS fort in Syria
The first images of a secretive British special forces unit operating in Syria have emerged, showing armoured vehicles securing a base held by anti-IS fighters on the Syria-Iraq border.
3 min read
09 August, 2016
British special forces are thought to be fighting in Syra, Iraq and Libya [BBC]

The first images of UK special forces operating in Syria have emerged, showing armoured vehicles securing a base used by anti-Islamic State group forces along the Syria-Iraq border.

The pictures were reportedly taken in June at the New Syrian Army [NSA] base in al-Tanf, following an IS attack near the site.

The images, which were published on Monday by the BBC, show a dozen heavily-armed British special forces sitting atop Thalab long-range patrol vehicles as they patrol the Ne Syrian Army base.

"We are receiving special forces training from our British and American partners. We're also getting weapons and equipment from the Pentagon as well as complete air support," an NSA spokesman said.

Holding fort

The pictures were reportedly taken a day before Russian warplanes bombed the remote outpost used by elite US and British forces.

The contingent of about 20 British special forces had pulled out the day before the first attack on 16 June, on a garrison about 16 kilometres from the Jordanian border at al-Tanf.

      The special forces are seen atop their armoured vehicles [BBC]

The New Syrian Army is an anti-IS brigade which is armed and trained by the US.

It views itself as a rebel force opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but most opposition groups see it as a Western agent to counter-terrorism in the country's civil war.

The group has reportedly agreed not to fight regime forces. But the New Syrian Army uses the imagery and flag of the opposition, and some of its fighters were in the Free Syrian Army before IS launched an offensive in eastern Syria and drove out moderate rebel groups. 

Its fighters captured al-Tanf - which occupies an important location close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders - from IS in March.

On Sunday, the NSA repelled an IS offensive on the base, killing several jihadi fighters.

"We fended off a strong attack following two car bombs attacks on the base," a source in the NSA told The New Arab.

In addition to receiving training, weapons and equipment from Washington it also relies on intensive air support from the US-led coalition.

The faction is made up of local Syrians from Deir az-Zour province, including Syrian army defectors from the special forces.

Last year, the UK announced it was deploying 75 military personnel to train Syrian anti-IS forces as part of a US-led programme.

British special forces are also thought to be fighting against IS in Iraq and Libya.

In May, photos emerged of US special forces, fighting alongside Kurdish units during its offensive in Syria against IS.