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Syrian forces recapture Daesh-held town of al-Qaryatain west of Palmyra

Syrian government forces walk on a street on March 31, 2016 in the modern town, adjacent to the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. ©AFP

Syria’s government forces have retaken control of the central town of al-Qaryatain, which is under the control of Daesh group, as part of Damascus’s fight against Takfiri militants.

Syrian troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, forced their way into al-Qaryatain on Sunday from a number of directions.

Syrian state television said the army and its allies "fully restored security and stability to the town after killing the last remaining groups of Daesh terrorists" in the town. 

According to SANA news agency, Syrian forces are clearing the area from Daesh-planted explosives.

Local sources said that Daesh militants fled from the town to nearby Khaneezir and Hafir regions.

Al-Qaryatain was the last major stronghold of Daesh in the east of Homs province. Syrian troops will reportedly continue their mop-up operations against Takfiri militants towards the city of Deir Ezzor, also located in eastern Homs, and Raqqa province, northeast of Homs.

Al-Qaryatain is located 100 km west of the ancient city of Palmyra that was recently liberated from Daesh control by government forces. Al-Qaryatain had been under the Takfiri group’s control since last August.

Syrian soldiers patrol a street in the historical city of Palmyra in central Syria on March 29, 2016. ©AFP

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported the entrance of Syrian forces into the town and said that fighting continued between both sides.

“Practically speaking, the town can be said to have fallen militarily, because the regime controls the surrounding hills," said Rami Abdurrahman, the group’s director.

The group also noted that Russian and Syrian planes carried out 40 airstrikes near al-Qaryatain.

The Syrian soldiers have now been clearing bombs and landmines planted in Palmyra by Daesh. They have so far detonated 500 mines in Palmyra’s urban areas while the number of those undiscovered remains unknown.

Syria has been gripped by militancy since 2011. SOHR says at least 270,000 people have since been killed in the war-ravaged country; however, some reports put the death toll at over 470,000.

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