Syria's Assad: Turkey played key role in fall of city of Idlib to Islamic fighters



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BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed Turkey in remarks published Friday for the fall last month of Syria's northwestern city of Idlib to Islamic fighters, saying Ankara provided "huge support" — logistic and military — that played the key role in the defeat of his forces.

Idlib's fall was a major blow to Assad's government. The city was captured by opposition fighters led by al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the ultra-conservative Ahrar al-Sham group.

It was the second provincial capital to fall to militants during Syria's civil war. The city of Raqqa fell in 2013 and is now in the hands of Islamic State militants.

"The main factor was the huge support that came through Turkey; logistic support, and military support," Assad said in an interview published in the Swedish daily Expressen. The interview was also published by Syria's state news agency SANA.

The Syrian army has lost several areas recently to opposition fighter including a border crossing point with Jordan and a southern town, in addition to Idlib.

Asked if his army has been weakened Assad said, "that's the natural, normal repercussion of any war. Any war weakens any army, no matter how strong, no matter how modern."

Pro-government media have said that Turkish forces jammed Syrian army telecommunication systems in Idlib, contributing to the collapse in defenses.

There was no immediate comment from Turkey on Assad's allegations.

Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed some 220,000 people, with no end in sight.

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