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Fighting in northern Syria rages on

Fighting has continued to rage on around a key military airport in northern Syria. Two Islamist rebel groups are reported to be among those fighting to wrest control of the airbase from government troops.

Rebels continued an offensive aimed at capturing the Taftanaz military airbase in the northern province of Idlib on Thursday. They had managed to fight their way into part of the facility on Wednesday, after setting off a car bomb at its main gate. They were later pushed back beyond the perimeter by troops loyal to President Bashar Assad, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It said two Islamist groups, the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham were among the rebel fighters involved in the battle for Taftanaz.

The Taftanaz base is one of the government's last strongholds in the province, which borders on Turkey.

The Observatory also reported fighting around the international civilian airport in Aleppo and the Deir Ezzor military airbase in eastern Syria, as well in the northern outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

It put Thursday's death toll at 14, with most of those coming in the fighting around Damascus and Deraa province.

Like most figures, these were virtually impossible to confirm, due to severe restrictions imposed on journalists reporting from Syria.

The latest fighting comes a day after the United Nations announced that the death toll in the 21-month-old conflict had climbed to more than 60,000. The number surprised many, as it was nearly a third higher than the latest figures released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Until Wednesday, the UN's figures had tended to be significantly lower than those published by the Observatory.

Syria's conflict grew out of a series of peaceful protests in March 2011, in which demonstrators demanded political reforms.

pfd/kms (AFP, dpa)