The Syrian army retook the city of Deir el-Zour from the “Islamic State,” on a day the militants also lost al-Qaim in Iraq. The twin blow means the jihadis have lost almost all their urban strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Syrian government forces have taken full control of the city of Deir el-Zour from the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group, Syrian state television said on Friday, confirming a report a day earlier by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The city is completely liberated from terrorism,” the television report said.
Read more: Syria: What do key foreign powers want?
“Regime forces and allied fighters … with Russian air support have full control of Deir el-Zour city,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said on Thursday.
A statement from the Syrian military also said the army was in full control of the city and was now removing booby traps and mines that the extremist group has left behind.
Deir el-Zour is the capital of an oil-rich province of the same name and is the largest and most important city in eastern Syria.
It has been largely controlled by IS since 2014 except for one large pocket of government resistance.
The Syrian army reached the city in September, breaking a three-year siege by IS militants with the aid of Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed militia groups.
The city’s strategic importance to IS was due to its proximity to the Iraq border, where the group also controlled territory. Its recovery underscores the extent to which President Bashar al-Assad has re-established control over eastern Syria.
The city’s fall marks another key defeat for IS jihadis, who have in recent months lost most of the territory they seized in their 2014 advance across Syria and Iraq.
The regime offensive against the jihadi group has been waged largely on the western side of the Euphrates, which cuts diagonally across Deir el-Zour province.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by a US-led coalition, is waging a second, separate offensive against the jihadis in the east of the province.
Iraqi forces retake al-Qaim
The so-called caliphate was dealt another blow on Friday when Iraqi forces recaptured the district of al-Qaim in Iraq, one of the last towns held by the jihadis in the country.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated Iraqi forces and hailed the “liberation of al-Qaim in record time.”
Al-Qaim, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Baghdad in the Euphrates River Valley, sits along a key supply route used by the IS to move fighters and supplies between Syria and Iraq.
Having lost control of al-Qaim, IS fighters in Iraq now hold only the neighboring town of Rawa and surrounding pockets of barren desert along the Euphrates river.
ap, tj/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)