• Qaeda, allies overrun Syria govt holdout

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    BEIRUT: Fighters of Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate and its allies overran the last major government-held city in the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday, a monitoring group said.

    The rebels launched their attack on Jisr al-Shughur on Thursday, seeking to capitalize on their capture of the provincial capital last month and open up a strategic assault route to the regime’s stronghold on the Mediterranean coast.

    “Al-Nusra Front and the Islamist brigades .. took control of almost all the city,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Government forces fled.”

    “Thousands of rebel fighters are in the city. Clashes are continuing in some neighbouhoods where soldiers are attempting to break out.”

    The jihadists hailed their victory on their official Twitter account.

    “The mujahedeen have entered the city center. The city has been liberated,” Al-Nusra said.

    The Syrian regime made Jisr al-Shughur its de facto provincial capital after the same rebel coalition calling itself “The Army of Conquest” overran Idlib city last month.

    Abdel Rahman said that the rebels’ latest victory was even more important as it cut a key road between the government stronghold of Latakia on the coast and the central province of Hama.

    The regime still controls a few areas in the east of Idlib province, including the town of Ariha, a military base in Al-Mastumah and an air base at Abu Duhur.

    AFP

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