World

Syrian insurgents seize last military-held base in Idlib province in new blow to government

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (SANA via AP)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Opposition activists say that insurgents in Syria have captured the last military base in the northwestern province of Idlib, marking the latest collapse of government troops in the region.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said factions — including al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham — captured Mastoumeh base Friday, after days of fighting.

The Observatory says government forces left the base and withdrew to the nearby town of Ariha.

State-run Syrian TV said army units in Mastoumeh base were moving to reinforce defenses in Ariha further south.

Government troops withdrew from the provincial capital of Idlib after it fell to opposition fighters in March, followed by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour and Qarmeed military base days later.