26 regime fighters dead in ISIS assault in east Syria: Monitor

AFP , Thursday 24 Dec 2015

The Islamic State militants group has expanded its control inside an eastern Syrian city after clashes and suicide attacks killed at least 26 regime fighters, a monitor said.

ISIS militants seized the industrial neighbourhood in the city of Deir Ezzor after a fierce offensive that began on Wednesday morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The attack began when three ISIS suicide bombers drove explosive-laden cars into the neighbourhood, killing at least 11 members of pro-government forces, the Britain-based monitor said.

The ensuing "violent clashes, air strikes, and an exchange of shelling" brought the toll up to 26 government loyalists and 12 ISIS militants, according to the Observatory.

ISIS already holds most of the oil-rich Deir Ezzor province and much of its provincial capital.

The militants group has been fighting for months to take Deir Ezzor city, including the adjacent military airport.

If Deir Ezzor city falls to ISIS, it would be the second provincial capital under the extremist group's control after Raqa in the north.

More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 as an anti-government protest movement but which has spiralled into a multi-sided war.

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