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SDF to launch attack on Tabqa soon

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian militias are expected to attack soon a Daesh-held dam and air base west of the Syrian city of Raqqa, their spokesman said on Thursday, part of an accelerating campaign to capture the hardline group’s stronghold.

The US-led coalition against Daesh airdropped Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters some 15km

from the dam at the town of Tabqa on Tuesday night.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the SDF forces had yet to reach Tabqa town or the nearby airport and dam. He described these as three strategically important targets and said the SDF planned to repair and use the airport once it was captured.

“Today or at most tomorrow there will be an attack operation on these three areas,” he said in a phone interview.

He said that once captured, the air base runway would be repaired and “in the near future our forces will use this airport.” “In all the areas under our control, we do not have an airport that can receive planes,” he said. “The coalition planes will benefit from the airport.”

Meanwhile, Australia rejected 500 Syrian refugees on security grounds during more than a year of vetting while accepting 12,000 eligible for resettlement from Middle Eastern camps, an official said on Thursday.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said the deadly rampage near Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday, in which a man used a knife and car as weapons to kill four people, showed Australia was right to be cautious on who it accepted.

“The tragic events in London and elsewhere demonstrate the government’s approach was prudent and there are people that we’d excluded on national security grounds and people that we do have concerns about that we have not brought to our country and we never will,” Dutton told reporters.

Dutton said there would have been “significant consequences in our own country” if the government had followed the opposition’s advice by bringing all the refugees to Australia quickly.

Dutton’s office did not immediately respond on Thursday to a request for comment on a newspaper report that as many 900 of the accepted refugees are members of Syria’s Christian minority.

The SDF has been working since November to encircle Raqqa city with support from US special forces and air strikes by the US.-led coalition against Daesh.

Agence France-Presse/Associated Press

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