BEIRUT (AFP) – Rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have captured a key air base in the northern province of Aleppo after a months-long battle, a monitoring group reported Tuesday.
"The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (jihadist group) and other opposition groups took total control at dawn today of Minnigh air base," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Rebel groups have been fighting loyalists for Minnigh air base for some eight months, as part of a battle in Aleppo province to stop the regime from using warplanes to strike areas in opposition hands.
Rebels laid siege on Minnigh in December 2012, and have tried "dozens of times" before to storm the airport, said the Britain-based Observatory.
The takeover comes a day after a new assault began early Monday, when "a non-Syrian man blew himself up in an armoured vehicle at the entrance to the headquarters of the Minnigh air base," it said.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the suicide bomber was a Saudi.
After the bombing, jihadist and local rebels attacked and destroyed several army vehicles, killed officers and troops, and seized control of the complex, said the Observatory.
Months earlier the rebels had captured Al-Jarrah military airport and Base 80, also in Aleppo province.
Aleppo international airport and Nayrab and Kwayris air bases are still in loyalist hands.
Minnigh is located north of Aleppo city, near the Turkish border.