World Bulletin / News Desk
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have recaptured a town on the main highway north of the capital, the army said, putting them back on the offensive in the strategic region near the Lebanese border.
Assad's forces have made advances in recent months and are trying to secure the highway linking Damascus, but faced a setback last week when they lost the town of Deir Attiya to rebels.
The town is in the mountainous Qalamoun area overlooking the highway near the Lebanese border, a region that has emerged as the main battleground as Assad and his opponents try to secure a strategic advantage ahead of a peace conference in January.
"Units from the army managed to defeat terrorist groups which had infiltrated Deir Attiya... The operation eliminated many terrorists from different nationalities," a Syrian army statement said. The government refers to opposition fighters as terrorists.
The statement said soldiers were pursuing the gunmen in nearby areas in an attempt to secure the highway.
Assad's military campaign in Qalamoun was jolted last week by twin suicide attacks from al Qaeda-linked groups on army posts in the nearby town of Nabak.
Taking advantage of confusion among Assad's soldiers, fighters launched coordinated attacks and pushed the troops out of Nabak and Deir Attiya, whose residents had not joined the revolt against Assad.
The army brought in reinforcements and launched a counter offensive three days ago, retaking Deir Attiya on Thursday and battling rebel fighters in Nabak on Friday.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people, destroyed the country's infrastructure and driven millions of people from their homes.Last Mod: 29 Kasım 2013, 14:00