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  ISIS takes over town in Homs

ISIS takes over town in Homs

REUTERS
Published : Nov 2, 2015, 5:37 am IST
Updated : Nov 2, 2015, 5:37 am IST

ISIS fighters seized the Syrian town of Maheen in Homs province from government forces on Sunday, a monitoring group said, expanding their presence in Syria’s west despite a Russian-backed bombing cam

ISIS fighters seized the Syrian town of Maheen in Homs province from government forces on Sunday, a monitoring group said, expanding their presence in Syria’s west despite a Russian-backed bombing campaign against them.

ISIS strongholds in Syria are in the north and east, but it has increased its territory in Homs province since taking over the historic city of Palmyra earlier in 2014, and then Qaryatain, 15 kilometres east of Maheen.

The group began its attack late on Saturday using two suicide car bombs and by Sunday morning had taken over Maheen, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The assault brought ISIS to within 20 kilometres of the main highway that links Damascus to Homs and to cities further north.

The Observatory said at least 50 fighters on the government side were killed or wounded, and that clashes were raging further west on the outskirts of Sadad, a nearby town mostly inhabited by Christians, as ISIS pressed its advance.

A statement from ISIS confirmed the assault on Maheen, describing the town as “strategically important” and saying it had also seized weapons caches.

Russia and the Syrian government have been waging an air offensive against insurgents in the west and northwest of Syria.

The Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman said the attack might have been a response to pressures the group is under elsewhere.

“Daesh always looks for advances against the regime after failures in the areas it controls in northern Syria,” he said, without referring to specific battles in the north, and using an Arabic name for ISIS.

Government and Russian airstrikes have been targeting ISIS fighters at an airbase they have long besieged in Aleppo province. Fighting there has drawn support from Damascus ally Iran and killed an Iranian general several weeks ago.

Location: Lebanon, Beirut