Syria regime forces advance towards strategic IS-held town

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BEIRUT (AFP) – Syria regime forces backed by Russia on Friday advanced towards the strategic town of Tabqa held by the Islamic State group in the north of the country, a monitor said.

The advance came after a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance pressed an offensive launched last week towards the jihadist-controlled town from the opposite direction.

“Russia-backed regime forces now stand less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Lake Assad” to the southwest of Tabqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The town — controlled by IS since 2014 — lies some 50 kilometres to the east of the jihadist group s Syrian de facto capital of Raqa city.

“Tabqa is more important than Raqa city as it lies near the dam where IS has a large prison” and near the Tabqa military airport, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Taking Tabqa would mean cutting the supply road into Raqa from the east, he said.

“It s big advance for 24 hours,” said Abdel Rahman, whose Britain-based monitor relies on sources on the ground for its information.

Pro-regime troops had advanced around 20 kilometres since Thursday, killing at least 17 IS fighters and losing nine fighters in their ranks.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, meanwhile, on Friday stood around 60 kilometres to the northeast of Tabqa.

A US-led coalition is pressing twin offensives in Syria and neighbouring Iraq where Iraqi forces made progress Friday in their assault on Fallujah, moving into a southern neighbourhood.

2016-06-04

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