Militant group says was behind Aleppo air defense base assault

DUBAI Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:15am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - An Islamist militant group has said it planned a rebel attack on a Syrian air defense base near Aleppo on October 12 and that Chechen fighters took part in the assault, the SITE monitoring group reported late on Friday.

Ninety two government soldiers were killed in battles across Syria on October 12, a pro-opposition monitoring group said at the time, making it one of the bloodiest days for forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising against him began last year.

In several other statements it posted online on Friday, the group, the Al Nusra Front, also claimed responsibility for an assault on the Hanano barracks in Aleppo and for a raid in Raqqah that killed 32 soldiers, SITE reported.

The Al Nusra Front was formed in late 2011 once the uprising against Assad was underway and has since released a number of statements calling for the overthrow of the Syrian government. It has previously claimed responsibility for other high profile attacks, including for a string of suicide bombings earlier this month that killed 48 people in Aleppo.

It said in a statement posted on Islamist forums on Friday it had planned and taken part in the attack on the Aleppo air defense base and that the al-Fajr Islamic Movement and a group of Chechen fighters were also involved.

"Allah graced his mujahideen slaves with a storming invasion into the 606 rocket brigade ... the Al Nusra Front had the command," SITE reported the statement in Arabic as saying.

The statement did not give a figure for casualties on either side resulting from the attack, but said that after overrunning the base, the fighters had seized weapons, destroyed buildings and sabotaged radar and rockets.

In another statement posted on Islamist forums on Friday, Al Nusra said it had stormed the Hanano barracks in Aleppo for a second time, overrunning the complex for six hours and killing 10 soldiers and a machine gunner.

A third statement said it had killed at least 32 soldiers during an attack on the Suluq barracks in Raqqah, without giving details.

Syria's government has blamed much of the violence in the country on Islamist militants it says have foreign backing.

Rebels have said they want to replace Assad's government with a democracy.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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