BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian government forces and allied militia have repelled an insurgent attack on a village in western Syria of strategic importance to both sides, with dozens of combatants killed, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
A Syrian military source also said the army had repelled the attack on Wednesday on Doreen, some 30 km (20 miles) east of the Mediterranean coast. The army took Doreen a week ago from groups including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
Doreen is important because of its high elevation overlooking surrounding areas. It lies in the coastal area seen as a priority for Damascus as the government tries to consolidate its control over territory stretching north from the capital through Homs and Hama and then west to the Mediterranean.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said the insurgents entered Doreen on Wednesday night but were driven back to its outskirts. More than 50 combatants were killed on both sides, he said.
The Syrian military source said between 25 and 40 insurgents were killed and a small number of Syrian soldiers suffered light wounds.
A statement posted on an official Nusra Front Twitter feed on Wednesday said its fighters had expelled enemy forces from Doreen. But it had not been updated on Thursday.
The Nusra Front is the strongest insurgent group in western Syria, but was dealt a heavy blow early this month when its top military commander was killed in an air strike that the Syrian army said it carried out.
Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Tom Heneghan