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Battle for Syria's Palmyra rages as IS group launches new assault

© Vasily Maximov, AFP | Russian army soldiers patrol the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on May 5, 2016.

Video by Adam PLETTS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-12-11

More than 4,000 Islamic State (IS) group militants have regrouped and launched a second attack to try to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra, rights monitors and Russian authorities said on Sunday.

“Despite heavy losses in manpower and equipment, the terrorists are trying as hard as possible to secure a foothold inside the city,” the Russian reconciliation centre said, as quoted by Interfax. “Syrian troops are fighting to defend Palmyra.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that the militants had recaptured the ancient city on Sunday after briefly withdrawing in the face of heavy Russian air strikes.

The reconciliation centre, which operates under the Russian defence ministry, said the IS group was drawing on “significant forces” from its strongholds in Raqqa and Deir al Zor.

The activist-run Palmyra Coordination group said IS group militants advanced from the northwest, seizing a neighborhood on the outskirts and Palmyra's castle.

An IS group propaganda agency also said the militants had recaptured Palmyra after launching a counter-offensive.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia said that it helped Syrian troops repel an attack on the town by launching more than 60 airstrikes.

The IS group has been advancing on the town in recent days, capturing areas on its outskirts at a time when Syrian forces are focused on driving rebels out of the northern city of Aleppo.

Palmyra is home to towering 2,000-year-old ruins and was a major tourist attraction before the civil war broke out in 2011. The IS group seized the town last year and held it for 10 months before being driven out by Russian-backed Syrian forces in March.

The militants launched a new advance on Palmyra in recent days, with reports of heavy fighting within the town itself.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

Date created : 2016-12-11

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