BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army and allied forces recaptured a town from Islamic State on Saturday in central Homs province, where the jihadists have lost vast territory in recent months, state media said.
Syrian troops regained control of al-Qaraytan “after eliminating terrorist Daesh groups that had infiltrated it,” state TV said using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Earlier this month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State fighters had seized the town from government forces, part of a counter-attack by the jihadists who have come under intense pressure in eastern Syria.
The Observatory said on Saturday that some militants had surrendered and others had withdrawn from the town after heavy fighting. The only Islamic State presence in Homs was in a patch of desert in the east of the province, the Britain-based war monitor said.
The town of al-Qaraytan lies some 100 km (60 miles) from the ancient city of Palmyra, and nearly 300 km (190 miles) from Deir al-Zor city, the current focus of the Syrian government’s offensive against Islamic State.
With the help of Russian jets and Iran-backed militias, the Syrian army has taken swathes of land from Islamic State in central Syria, including in Homs province. After months of steady gains across the central desert, the army and its allies marched eastwards into Deir al-Zor.
Islamic State militants have been on the back foot across Syria, forced into their last strongholds in the east of the country. The Russian-backed Syrian army and U.S.-backed Syrian militias are waging separate offensives against the jihadists in Deir al-Zor province, bordering Iraq.
Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Stephen Powell