IS attack on Syria's Deir Ezzor kills 75 regime forces: monitor

16th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

At least 75 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed Saturday in a multi-front attack by the Islamic State group on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitor said.

The fighting came as regime forces battled IS in the northern province of Aleppo, repelling a jihadist assault and killing at least 16 fighters from the group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS had advanced into the northern tip of Deir Ezzor city, in eastern Syria, and captured the suburb of Al-Baghaliyeh.

At least 60 regime forces were killed in Al-Baghaliyeh alone, most of them execution-style, the Britain-based monitor.

The advance puts IS in control of around 60 percent of the city, with the regime holding the rest, it added.

Syrian state news agency SANA said regime troops had repelled an IS attack on the area around Al-Baghaliyeh and inflicted "heavy losses" on the group.

Deir Ezzor is the capital of the province of the same name, an oil-rich region that borders Iraq and is mostly held by IS.

The regime has clung onto portions of the provincial capital and the adjacent military airport despite repeated IS attacks.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said heavy fighting was continuing on Saturday afternoon after the IS assault, which began with a suicide car bomb blast carried out by a member of the jihadist group.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, in which it said jihadists carried out several suicide bombings against regime forces and that the group was in control of Al-Baghaliyeh and other areas of Deir Ezzor.

The Observatory said Russian warplanes were carrying out heavy air strikes in support of regime forces as they sought to repel the jihadists.

Regime troops were locked in fierce clashes with IS in Aleppo province, with at least 16 jihadists killed after a failed attack on a government position near the town of Al-Bab, the monitor said.

State television also reported that regime forces had repelled an assault.

The Observatory said heavy fighting was ongoing Saturday in the area, with Russian war planes carrying out strikes in the region between the regime-held Kweyris air base and Al-Bab.

- Seven battlefronts -

The regime has advanced towards the town, an IS bastion, in recent days, and is now within 10 kilometres (six miles) of it, according to the Observatory.

That is the closest regime forces have come to Al-Bab since 2012.

The Britain-based monitor also said regime forces had taken a string of villages nearby.

Located some 30 kilometres south of the Turkish border, Al-Bab fell into rebel hands in July 2012, and IS jihadists captured it in late 2013.

The fighting in Al-Bab is just one of up to seven fronts on which regime forces are seeking to advance in Aleppo province, capitalising on a Russian air campaign that began on September 30.

The various battles are intended in part to cut rebel supply lines into Aleppo city, the provincial capital and Syria's second city.

Aleppo itself is divided and regime forces are now hoping to effectively encircle the opposition-held east.

In addition to cutting rebel access to eastern Aleppo city, the regime is hoping to sever areas controlled by IS in the province from its territory in neighbouring Raqa, Abdel Rahman said.

Raqa, the self-declared capital of IS, has come under frequent air strikes by the US-led coalition, the Syrian air force and Russian warplanes that began an air campaign in Syria in late September.

On Saturday at least 16 people, including civilians, were killed in air strikes and 30 others were wounded, said Abdel Rahman.

He said eight strikes hit the city and its surroundings but did not specify who carried them out.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, in comments reported Saturday, said some 600 Britons have been stopped from going to Syria to join IS and other jihadist groups.

Hammond said these interceptions as well as air strikes were placing extra strain on IS in its Raqa headquarters.

"There is evidence (IS) is finding it difficult to recruit to the brigades in Raqa because of the high attrition rate of foreign fighters," he said, according to The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers.

© 2016 AFP

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