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Militant Attacks Kill Syrian Soldiers  04/21 11:19

   Syrian government forces came under separate attacks from Islamic State 
militants and al-Qaida-linked insurgents in different parts of the country that 
killed nearly 50 soldiers and allied fighters, activists and a war monitoring 
group said Saturday.

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian government forces came under separate attacks from 
Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked insurgents in different parts of 
the country that killed nearly 50 soldiers and allied fighters, activists and a 
war monitoring group said Saturday.

   In one attack, IS militants ambushed Syrian government forces in the desert 
of central Homs province Thursday night, setting off two days of clashes that 
killed 27 soldiers, including four officers, the Syrian Observatory for Human 
Rights said.

   A pro-government militia, known as Liwa al-Quds, confirmed the ambush, 
saying it had sent its fighters to liberate the two besieged battalions, made 
up of nearly 500 soldiers, east of the town of al-Sukhna.

   In a Facebook post, the militia said it successfully broke the siege and 
liberated the surviving soldiers before pulling the bodies of those killed and 
damaged vehicles to safety.

   Liwa al-Quds, one of the elite militias operating side by side with 
government troops, didn't give a casualty figure. It said the besieged 
battalions were out in desert looking for an army division that disappeared in 
the area over the last few days.

   The Islamic State group lost its last territories in Syria in March after 
months of battles with U.S-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the eastern province 
of Deir el-Zour. But the militants remain active in the desert to the west of 
Deir el-Zour, where they have taken refuge and increasingly targeted government 
troops and allied militia.

   The militant group, which once controlled large swathes of territory in 
Syria and Iraq, has kept a network of sleeper cells active in both countries. 
It has also kept up its media operations. The IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency 
reported the attack east of al-Sukhna, saying that in 24 hours of clashes its 
militants killed nearly two dozen Syrian soldiers and officers. It said the 
militants also seized Syrian government ammunition and vehicles.

   Separately, government forces came under an attack from insurgents of 
al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahir al-Sham in northwest Syria, where a cease-fire is 
supposed to be in place.

   The Observatory said the insurgents assaulted the government positions west 
of Aleppo early Saturday, killing 21 soldiers and allied fighters. Baladi news, 
an activist-operated news site, said the attack in Akrab village killed 27 
soldiers, quoting an HTS operative. Akrab overlooks the Aleppo-Damascus highway.

   A cease-fire was reached in the area in September but is increasingly 
tested. The area includes the last major stronghold of the armed opposition.

   The cease-fire was negotiated by Russia and Turkey, who support opposite 
sides of the conflict but who have closely coordinated their policies.


(KA)

 
 
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