“Russian air strikes drove Islamic State militants out”

Syrian and allied forces backed by Russian air strikes drove Islamic State militants out of the town of al-Qaryatain on Sunday after encircling it over the past few days, Syria’s military command said. Surrounded by hills, al-Qaryatain is 100 km (60 miles) west of the ancient city of Palmyra, which government forces recaptured from Islamic State last Sunday. Al-Qaryatain had been held by the militant group since late August. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been trying to retake al-Qaryatain and other pockets of Islamic State control to reduce the jihadist group’s ability to project military power into the heavily populated western region of Syria, where Damascus and other main cities are located. Syrian state television said the army and its allies “fully restored security and stability to al-Qaryatain after killing the last remaining groups of Daesh terrorists” in the town, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. In a statement read out on Syrian television, the military command said this was a strategic victory which secures oil and gas routes between the Damascus area and oilfields in eastern Syria. It also disrupts Islamic State supply routes within Syria”.

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